MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: ‘Laurence Anyways’ is very long, very pretty, and very, very good

Movies are getting longer and longer as we get farther into the 21st century.

I mean, seriously. An audience at Ashland can’t even make it halfway through “Into the Woods” without refilling the $8 Dixie cup worth of wine they bought at the concessions stand. How the hell does Xavier Dolan expect audiences to make it through his three-hour film “Laurence Anyways” without giving them an intermission?

Luckily, I had the advantage of having a pause button, but I can only imagine the pain that a man who didn’t check the running time and bought a large Icee would feel around the two-hour mark.

But, Laurence, I can’t stay mad at you. Not when you’re this good.

Full disclosure: I got this movie from a list of “visually striking movies” on Reddit. So sue me if I’m coming late to the party, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to enjoy it.

“Laurence Anyways” is a 2012 Canadian drama about the life of the eponymous Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), a transgender woman, and her fiancee Frederique (Suzanne Clement).

The story begins just before Laurence comes out to Fred, and details the long (long!) winding route of their doomed love affair while Laurence struggles with her identity, her family and her writing.

As for the claim that it’s visually striking, “Laurence Anyways” doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, it’s the movie’s saving grace.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the struggles of the marginalized as much as the next upper-middle-class white male, but if “Laurence Anyways” weren’t pretty, I might not have been able to stay tuned for its full running time.

Most, if not all, of the shots are good, and some are near perfect. To put it one way, if all stills of the film were collected, they could easily fill a gallery.

The film takes place in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, so  it’s positively bursting with that tacky-yet-chic charm that we expect of the period. Big hair, big jewelry, big ties and baggy pants.

The film’s soundtrack, with Synthpop and New Wave thrumming  away in the background, works to the same effect.

Fortunately, all the period-specific ornateness doesn’t turn the film’s time setting into hyperbole. Rather, it acts as a background, adding slick visuals to an already gorgeous film.

When it comes to movies, I may sometimes be guilty of valuing form over function (Yes, I do like Wes Anderson.) But I can safely say that my watching of “Laurence Anyways” wasn’t one of those times.

The three-hour run time stretches the story a little thin and makes things a bit trying in the third act, but ultimately, “Laurence Anyways” delivers on a story that almost (but not quite) matches its visuals in quality.

Even in the best cases, coming out as trans is hard. For Laurence, who’s been living as a man for 30 years (many of which were spent with a fiancee) coming out is damn near impossible.

But she does it anyway.

She leaps over the edge, and only to  discover that nobody is there to catch her, save for herself and Fred.

Of course, the hardest part is yet to come.

Laurence must live in what is an essentially different world. A world with rules and restrictions. A world in which she is different, something that many people may object to.

But what needs to be remembered is that all of this is just as hard for Fred, who’s had her life turned upside-down as Laurence attempts to find the version of right-side-up that she’s been missing all of these years.

And therein lies the point of “Laurence Anyways.”

It is not a film about the struggles of a transsexual to survive in society, but rather of a couple braving both societal pressures and basic human incompatibilities.

Although Fred and Laurence’s relationship is ultimately doomed, they are drawn to each other, and stick it out until it ends in bitterness and sadness.

Needless to say, both Poupaud and Clement carry the film. Poupaud is phenomenal and absolutely nails Laurence during every step of his journey through life.

Clement does an excellent job of taking us through her character’s journey as well. We see Fred transform from an eager and willing partner in a modern-day relationship, to a woman suffocated by society to a frustrated housewife drawn to the life she left behind.

Despite its length, “Laurence Anyways” is an easy recommendation, provided you’ve some time to kill and a very comfortable chair.

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