QFEST 2011 Review: LEADING LADIES
LEADING LADIES is a quirky but charming comedy with a classical sensibility. Co-directed by Daniel Beahm and Erika Randall Beahm, the film is about two sisters and their overbearing stage mother, once a champion dancer. The light, playful nature of the film is evident from the opening credits. Great care was taken in staging, choreographing and staging the entire film to work whimsically with the musical score.
Shannon Lea Smith plays Tasi Campari, the younger sister and something of a wild princess. Tasi is also the dancer of the two sisters, her mother’s protégé. Laurel Vail (THE ECHO GAME) plays Toni Campari, the introverted and calm sister who often serves as the voice of reason in their family. Melanie LaPatin, a choreographer and actress in real life, plays the Campari girls’ mother Sheri. She’s a colorful, energetic handful of a woman with passion for what she does, whether her daughters always appreciate it or not.
While Tasi’s relationship with their mother grows more strenuous, Toni’s gay best friend Cedric (Benji Schwimmer) takes her out to a gay club where she meets Mona, but her sudden, unexpected revelation is dampened by Tasi’s bombshell announcement that she’s pregnant.
There’s an authenticity to Toni that draws the attention to her very aura, a sort of glow to her presence and personality that says “I’m a real person.” Vail scales back her performance as Toni, resulting in a very relatable character with real emotions and real insecurities.
Tasi’s pregnancy comes about abruptly, but LEADING LADIES is primarily Toni’s story and the pregnancy serves as the elastic waistband that pulls the Campari sisters’ relationship back into shape as Toni’s newly found romance is revealed to those around her, but the sisters’ secrets prove harder for their mother to swallow.
The Beahm’s have incorporated a wonderful attention to detail into LEADING LADIES. The viewer’s focus is immediately engaged by the richness of color and detail in the set design, the lighting and the wardrobes. The varied styles of music pair nicely with the film’s visual mood shifts, while the stunning confidence with the camera and composition is impressive for these first-time filmmakers.
LEADING LADIES is a feel good movie with a message and a joy to watch, and quite possibly one of the most endearing and sincerely uplifting movies I’ve seen in 2010 so far.