As 2022 comes to a close, the enthralling new biopic, “Whitney Huston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” features a significant storyline about the singer’s (Naomi Ackie) relationship with Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams). It also references Clive Davis’ (Stanley Tucci) sexuality. It is one many notable films featuring LGBTQ characters to grace screens this year.
Perhaps the most financially successful film with queer content in 2022 was “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” which featured a lesbian daughter (Stephanie Hsu) and even a sequence featuring star Michelle Yeoh coupling up with Jamie Lee Curtis.
But audiences mostly stayed away from seeing films in theaters. “Bros” generated more buzz about its failure at the box office than it did about being an amusing comedy about two white cis gay men finding love. “Spoiler Alert” earlier this month, also depicted white cis gay men in love battling cancer. Even “The Inspection,” and outstanding drama about a Black gay homeless young man entering boot camp, struggled to find an audience.
Likewise, “TÁR,” featuring Cate Blanchett in a showstopping performance as a fictional lesbian conductor, underperformed at the box office in limited release. It is too early to gauge how Brendan Frasier’s “comeback” role as a severely obese gay man in “The Whale” will do at the box office, but reviews have been mixed.
Moviegoers may still be wary of COVID, or they may prefer to watch films in the comfort of their own homes, spending money on streaming services rather than movie theater tickets. There were a number of fantastic films for queer audiences available only on the small screen this year.
“Fire Island,” (HULU) was a terrific comedy of manners (based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”) about a cluster of gay friends spending what might be their last summer together in the gay mecca. Featuring an out gay ensemble cast, including Joel Kim Booster, who stars and wrote the film, and Conrad Ricamora, who plays his potential partner. This amusing film also scored bonus points for featuring sexy gay Asian leading men at its center.
“They/Them,” (Peacock), by out gay director John Logan, also featured a large queer ensemble cast and had fun upending the horror film genre from its opening scene. The thriller, set in a gay conversion therapy camp, was scary, sexy, and even silly, but it also showcased a fabulous scene of all the queer campers performing Pink’s “Fuckin’ Perfect.”
Billy Porter’s “Anything’s Possible” (Prime Video) was a fun romcom that made salient points about gender as Kelsa (trans actress Eva Reign), a Black trans teenager, navigated friendships with her classmates, romance with Khal (Abubakr Ali), an over-protective mother (Renée Elise Goldsberry) as well as being asked to use a “gender-neutral bathroom” (in the basement).
Out gay writer/director Tim Federle’s plucky musical, “Better Nate Than Ever,” (Disney+) also provided a charming reason to stay home. Based on Federle’s 2013 young adult novel, this family film spoke — or rather, sung to — any queer theater kid as Nate Foster (Reuby Wood) makes a secret road trip to New York City to audition for an open casting for the Broadway musical of “Lilo and Stitch.”
Queer horror was huge in 2022, with arguably the best entry being out gay writer/director Goran Stolevski’s “You Won’t Be Alone,” which featured a child who becomes a witch in 19th century Macedonia and shape-shifts into various bodies and identities. In the stylish thriller, “The Last Thing Mary Saw,” Mary’s (Stefanie Scott) “sinful affection” for the family maid, Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman) in 1843 New York prompts her parents to “correct” her behavior. Eleanor, however, responds with a devious plan with deadly consequences.
Another flinty slow-burn folk horror film was “You Are Not My Mother,” by queer writer/director Kate Dolan. Char (Hazel Doupe) is a troubled teen, grappling with her depressed mom, Angela (Carolyn Bracken), who goes missing and then reappears — changed. It was an interesting film about otherness as Char realizes she is a bit different from her classmates.
In contrast, “Alone with You” about Charlie (Emily Bennett) waiting for her girlfriend Simone (Emma Myles) in their Brooklyn apartment, was less successful, in part because it goes nowhere slowly.
In “Hypochondriac,” by out gay writer/director Addison Heimann, Will (Zach Villa) jeopardizes his own mental and physical health, as well as his relationship with his boyfriend, Luke (Devon Graye), when his dangerous mother reappears in his life.
“So Vam,” written and directed by 17-year-old transgender filmmaker Alice Maio Mackay, was a low-budget horror film about Kurt (Xai), a bullied gay high school student in Australia who wants to be a drag queen. When he is “changed” by Landon (Chris Asimos), who feeds on outcasts, Kurt becomes a vampire.
Other LGBTQ film highlights this year included the underseen “Compartment No. 6,” about Laura (Seidi Haarla), a lesbian grad student who meets Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov) on a Russian train to the arctic circle. Their journey together is highly affecting. Another wistful, compelling two-hander was trans director/cowriter Mari Walker’s “See You Then,” about Naomi (Lynn Chen) and Kris (Pooya Mohseni) reuniting after more than a decade apart. Kris has transitioned to female in the years since she abruptly walked out on Naomi, her ex-lover.
“Great Freedom” was a tough and tender film set almost entirely in a German prison where Hans Hoffmann (Franz Rogowski) has been sentenced under Paragraph 175, which criminalizes homosexuality. The film shows his experiences and relationships with three very different men behind bars over time.
The outstanding British period piece, “Benediction” by out gay writer/director Terence Davies, traced the gay British poet Siegfried Sassoon’s life as a soldier who protested the war to his relationship with various male lovers before marrying Hester (Kate Phillips) and having a son. In contrast, “The Laureate,” was a bland, ambitious biographical drama about bisexual poet Robert Graves (Tom Hughes), while the “heritage” film, “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” was a huge disappointment. Its plot was as dull as unpolished silver — even if it did feature a gay romance between the swoon-inducing movie star Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and head butler, Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier).
Also underwhelming was the fusty British drama, “My Policeman,” which depicted a love triangle four decades apart between two men and one woman in Brighton, England. The film was most notable for actor Harry Styles playing a repressed gay man.
Three top documentaries this year were “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” by Laura Poitras, which profiled Nan Goldin combatting the opioid crisis; “Good Night Oppy” by gay filmmaker Ryan White, about NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers; and “Framing Agnes,” trans filmmaker Chase Joynt’s deft unpacking of trans lives and experiences from interviews done in the 1960s.
There were more, many more notable LGBTQ-themed films. Among the best were “Dos Estaciones,” about a lesbian tequila factory boss and her trans friend; “Neptune Frost,” a dazzling, sci-fi musical extravaganza featuring intersexed characters; “Private Desert” a queer Brazilian romance, and “Girl Picture,” a sensitive romantic drama about Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff), an acerbic lesbian, who lets her guard down when she meets Emma (Linnea Leino), a figure skater.
Here’s to a Happy New Year and more great LGBTQ films in 2023!