Making the Grades
Understandably, not all family viewers will feel comfortable with the topics of homosexuality and drag queens serving as the main themes for entertainment. That said, writer and actress Nia Vardolas does give audiences a glimpse into the world of cross-dressing in Connie & Carla that rarely finds its way onto the screen.
Incorporating hearty doses of slapstick humor and scores of musical show tunes, she also explores the deeper, more sensitive topics of what happens when family members choose a path (be it lifestyle, religion or career) that differs from the rest of the clan.
Connie (Vardolas) and Carla (Toni Collette) have been best friends since their early days in elementary school. They've always dreamed of making it big as dinner theater performers. Now as adults, they have a gig entertaining stranded passengers in an airport lounge. Despite the lukewarm responses they get from the tired patrons, the girls are enthusiastic about singing until one night when they witness a mob murder in the parking lot.
Sighted by the shooter, the girls run screaming from the scene, pack their bags and leave Chicago in a hurry. Crossing the country in an attempt to find a safe haven, they finally land in Los Angeles where they get a job performing in a little, shabby bar as drag queens.
Scared stiff by their encounter with the killers, the girls are glad for the pretense of men feigning to be women. Even so, their ruse frequently puts them on the spot when their gay friends from the bar stop by for unannounced visits.
However, her undercover identity suddenly becomes more of a burden than blessing when Jeff (David Duchovny) shows up on the scene. After years of no contact with his brother, this straight guy finally has an address for his older sibling, Robert (Stephen Spinella), a drag queen. Although Jeff isn't interested in pursuing his brother's lifestyle, he does want to rekindle a relationship with him.
Having grown to appreciate the men who live behind the outrageous makeup, Connie encourages the guys to talk things out, and soon discovers she is falling in love with Jeff. But hiding behind a male persona leaves her with very little chance at romance.
Nia Valdolas' talent seems to be bringing plausible storylines to the screen. Whether it's welcoming an outsider into the family or accepting each other when directions diverge, her scripts offer plenty of ?think about this? moments. Other content concerns are relatively few. An accidental episode with an exploding bag of cocaine, some innuendo and a brief scene of female ?exposure? (seen only from the back), top the list.
Given the context of this story, this film certainly won't be for everyone. But for those who've faced similar experiences, there is hope that family ties might be refastened with a little time and understanding on the part of both parties.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Connie & Carla.
Why do you think Jeff was eager to renew a friendship with his brother? What walls had Robert placed around himself? What events helped the brothers gain a deeper understanding of one another?
How can a family deal with the disappointment and hurt that often follow when a family member chooses an option different from the rest of the group?
What examples of compassion did Connie show for the people she interacted with in her new neighborhood?