thatcow

Terrors of the Mind and Soul

It's been said before, in so many ways, in so many mediums, that the military is an uncompromising way of life - the way people depend on each other for their lives, and feel deeply a need to trust each other. Combine this with the deep-seated suspicion that seems endemic in human societies, and you can pump out enough movies of the week for a lifetime.

After seeing so many other films in this sort of genre, you can feel free to assume I need a little more imagination in this kind of flick.

Barry Winchell, while not shown as gifted in the brains department, is a decent, hardworking guy. He is fresh out of basic training and has been placed with the 101st Airborne. His roommate is Fisher, a man half mouth, half bravado. Fisher takes Winchell and some of the other guys to a transgendered club near the base. It seems like he senses something in Winchell he needs to be satisfied about. At the same time, Fisher's own interest seems to be something more than calling the performers "freaks".

Well, suffice it to say that Winchell falls for one of the performers, by the name of Calpernia Addams. Her exterior is a bit cynical, but she humors him, while at the same time wondering what details this soldier might not be clued in to. Winchell's pureness of heart ends up winning through, as he truly doesn't care about the details, only what he's feeling.

Obviously, there is a bit of a problem here, namely the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the US Military - plus that little bit about troops trusting each other that is the justification put forth for said policy. So, Winchell keeps quiet and the budding relationship blooms when Winchell can go off base by himself.

As Winchell's roommate, Fisher picks up on what's going on, but has the most interesting reaction. But first - there's nothing new about homophobia often coming from those who fear their own sexuality. It's almost officially a standard formula at this point. What's interesting here is the character development. Fisher becomes more and more compelled both ways. He makes excuses for more visits to the club while simultaneously creating trouble for Winchell. There is a genuine like for Winchell in this man, but an equal repulsion at the same time. Fisher spends the rest of the film like a hyperactive ADHD kid who can't control his actions.

What's to come isn't going to be a huge surprise, only how it plays out isn't that predictable. So I'll leave as many details as possible for you to find on your own.

Soldier's Girl is a fairly unlikely film but for the fact it is based on a real life incident. I can't help but imagine the characters Hollywood would have thought up, but they would have fallen short of the reality our three leads possess. Each is multidimensional, and not some puppet created for a particular plotline. How unusual it is to find a real-life adaptation that hasn't been shoved awkwardly into a textbook structure. While a more calculated script might have had extra flash and flavor, it would likely fail to provide as much meaning as this true story does.

And they found the right actors to flesh these folk out - Shawn Hatosy, in particular, makes Fisher a man we can't help but sympathize with, but hate ourselves for doing so. Troy Garity's Winchell isn't an easy role by any means, but he combines sweet and slow with tough and wise, and never seems false doing it. And finally, Lee Pace makes a compelling and convincing transsexual-in-progress.

There's a bit of voiceover, driven from some perception that the film needed to be tied together somehow. I'm fairly certain we wouldn't have missed it and audiences would not the right to get up from their chairs. Fortunately, it's not that distracting, but needless voiceovers are a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

No matter what you may think politically, it's clear that more has to happen than a change in policy before situations such as we see in this movie can be put behind us. This is one of those rare opportunities for a film to do more than just entertain us for a bit, but to open the debate on an issue that's easy for so many to ignore.

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