Breaking the Girls (NR)

Suspense/Thriller December 31st, 1969
By Ernest Hardy
There’s something wonderfully retro about Breaking the Girls, the latest film from gingerly subversive director Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader; Itty Bitty Titty Committee), and it’s only partly to do with the film’s sapphic twist on Hitchcock’s (and Patricia Highsmith’s) Strangers on a Train. In this moment of federally sanctioned queer marriage, and the tapioca banality of much of the art produced by what used to be called queer culture, Babbit, working from a screenplay by indie-lesbian icon Guinevere Turner and Mark Distefano, digs into the discarded bag of tricks from New Queer Cinema to embrace a controversial trope—the queer as psycho-killer—that was also long a staple of homophobic cultural fare. When hetero working-class law student Sara (Agnes Bruckner) meets rich, darkly free-spirited lesbian Alex (Madeline Zima), there’s a spark that one interprets as the beginning of a friendship, and the other reads as much more. After a drunken one-night stand and an exchange of backstories, Alex manipulates Sara into a murderous deal: I’ll kill your foe and you’ll kill mine. What follows is a decently acted, often drolly funny, tautly directed thriller that proves to be a Russian doll of motivations, coincidences and plot twists. It would have been more satisfying if it weren’t so unnecessarily convoluted.
Jamie Babbit Sam Anderson, Shawn Ashmore, Agnes Bruckner Mark Distefano, Guinevere Turner IFC Films