The beloved 1995 queer romance, “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love,” has just been released on Blu-Ray in a HD restoration, making it a perfect time to revisit this classic teen film. Writer/director Maria Maggenti’s debut — alas, she has made only one other feature film, “Puccini for Beginners” (2006) — is as charming now as it was on initial release.
Like Randy (Laurel Holloman, in her debut) the film’s working-class tomboy protagonist who lives in the moment, “Two Girls,” admittedly is a little rough around the edges. (It was shot in 21 days). Randy is an openly gay student at her high school, where her best friend is possibly the only other gay student, Frank (Nelson Rodríguez). That is, until she meets Evie (Nicole Ari Parker, in her debut), a privileged Black teen who dumps her boyfriend Hayjay (Andrew Wright) and takes an interest in Randy.
The girls meet cute at a gas station where Randy works. There is some attraction developing, but it builds slowly. The teens bond more when Evie confides in Randy about her problems in the school bathroom. When the girls get caught smoking, they end up in detention together. Yet this only seems to bring them closer. Before long, they are passing notes and Evie is giving Randy a copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” which only stirs her emotions further. In the film’s sweetest scene, the girls hold hands in a diner, and Evie tells the more experienced Randy, “Unshelter me.”
“The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” is wonderful because it treats its lesbian characters as normal and everyone else as “freaks.” Randy’s household consists of her aunt Rebecca (Kate Stafford) and her girlfriend Vicky (Sabrina Artel), as well as Rebecca’s former girlfriend, Lena (Toby Poser), who has come to live with them as the film begins. Randy is estranged from her biological mother, a religious pro-lifer who has been in jail for her activism.
The queer teens may be ostracized at school — Evie loses the support of her group of friends when she comes out to them one afternoon — but they are comfortable being themselves (Randy and Frank) and finding themselves (Evie). The troubles they face are less a function of who they are and whom they love, and more situational. Randy is failing math and will not graduate, while Evie is fighting with her divorced mother Evelyn (Stephanie Berry) who is reluctant to let her daughter grow up or make her own decisions.
Maggenti’s focus on the teen’s relationship forms the heart of the film. How this unexpected but intense relationship emboldens each young woman is what makes it so special. There are scenes of Evie and Randy together listening to music, but Maggenti also contrasts Randy’s love of female bands against Evie’s appreciation of opera and classical music.
Likewise, there are contrasting scenes of the families cooking dinner, with Evie, a perfectionist worrying about ruining a meal she is making, whereas Randy’s family is a chaotic scene with everyone in motion. Maggenti films this sequence with a terrific shot that pans back and forth to capture all the energy of the scene. (The filmmaker is also partial to overhead shots which are appealing.)
A scene where Evie comes to Randy’s house for dinner ends with the girls having their first kiss. A sequence in the last act has Randy sleeping over Evie’s house (while Evelyn is away). After they get stoned and drink some wine and eat a feast, they retire to Evelyn’s bedroom to make love. The sex scene is beautiful because it captures the magic of a teenager’s first time.
It is refreshing that “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” does not feature much in the way of teenage angst. There is some brief anxiety as Randy obsesses about a note she put in Evie’s locker, but their problems are not based on if they will stay together. (Evie never indicates her interest in Randy is a phase.)
Maggenti also imbues her film with humor, such as a comic subplot involving Randy’s affair with a married woman, Wendy (Maggie Moore). Wendy actually plays a supportive role when Randy and Evie end up in some trouble with their families.
Holloman and Parker give natural performances and have terrific chemistry together. The supporting cast gives mostly broad, comic performances, but Dale Dickey is engaging in her film debut as Regina, Randy’s coworker at the gas station.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” is that it is not an outlandish tale of same-sex love. Yes, being openly gay in high school in the mid-1990s was not readily accepted, but this film shows the possibility and the benefits of that. And that is why it is a film for the ages.