© 2024 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

LGBTQ cinema is growing and 'Love Lies Bleeding' continues the trend


A new film tells a love story that starts in a gym in the America of the 1980s. The movie also reflects a trend in cinema that's much more 21st century. Here's NPR's Julie Depenbrock.

JULIE DEPENBROCK, BYLINE: In just the last year, we've had "Bottoms," a satire about two unpopular, queer high-schoolers who start a fight club to meet girls.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Could the ugly, untalented gays please report to the principal's office?

KAIA JORDAN GERBER: (As Brittany) Guess that's you guys.

DEPENBROCK: "Drive-Away Dolls" is another comedy. This one's about two restless friends who embark on a road trip to Tallahassee, Fla.


MARGARET QUALLEY: (As Jamie) I've had it with love. I don't believe it's relevant to the 21st-century lesbian.

DEPENBROCK: And in theaters right now, "Love Lies Bleeding."


KRISTEN STEWART: (As Lou) So, where did you appear from?

KATY O'BRIAN: (As Jackie) Oklahoma.

STEWART: (As Lou) Yeah, I've never been anywhere but here.

DEPENBROCK: Directed by Rose Glass, "Love Lies Bleeding" takes place in 1989 in the American Southwest. It's a love story between two seemingly opposite characters, Jackie, an aspiring bodybuilder played by Katy O'Brian, and Lou, a gym manager played by Kristen Stewart.


STEWART: (As Lou) Is that why you left home - Oklahomans not into muscle chicks?

O'BRIAN: (As Jackie) Yeah, not so much. No, the place I'm from, everyone's a farmer, goes to church twice a week - that kind of thing.

DEPENBROCK: The two meet and immediately become infatuated with one another. But just as quickly, things start to go wrong.

ROSE GLASS: I guess it's kind of a darkly comic romance thriller satire kind of thing?

DEPENBROCK: That's Glass, who directed and co-wrote "Love Lies Bleeding." Here's how Kristen Stewart described her character.

STEWART: I mean, she's, like, a pretty nice guy. She wants to be a good dude.

DEPENBROCK: Lou, the nice guy, works at the gym owned by her estranged father, played by a gun-wielding Ed Harris. Before Lou meets Jackie, Stewart says she's feeling stuck, like she can't escape the violence in her own DNA. But then this larger-than-life person enters the scene.

STEWART: I really was scared of Jackie and thought she was - like, the only redeeming quality is that she's really sweet. And there was something about Lou liking her that made me like Lou even more. And, like - I don't know that they know each other. I don't know that this movie necessarily is, like - was a huge proponent for love, but it is, like, fun and a bit of a fever dream, which love definitely feels like.

DEPENBROCK: Stewart was obsessed with Rose Glass's first film, "Saint Maud." She says it's a delight to see Glass be allowed to do pretty much whatever she wants and for entertainment company A24 to support that vision. Stewart says, more often, you read a script, and you wonder, how did this get financed? It's so bad.

STEWART: And then some scripts you read very rarely - like, one of which is this movie - and you're like, how did this get financed? It's so good.

DEPENBROCK: Glass says the queerness of this story wasn't something they were consciously thinking about when making the film. It was just baked in. Here's Stewart and Glass again.

STEWART: Did we ever talk about that on set, ever? No, we did not ever. Not once.


STEWART: We just functioned from a place of pure curiosity and desire and just went, like, well, I don't know. What do you think? What do you want? What do you want? Like, and we weren't going, oh, my God, isn't this so cool? 'Cause, like, what I want is so gay and queer.

GLASS: (Laughter) Yeah, exactly.

STEWART: And here we are being gay and queer, like, unapologetically. But that was...

GLASS: Yeah.

STEWART: ...Happening for sure. But it was just more of a - yeah, we weren't underlining that point yet.

DEPENBROCK: So if a film like "Love Lies Bleeding" can remain as idiosyncratic as it is and reach a wider audience, that's meaningful.

DREW BURNETT GREGORY: I don't think that the art should be sacrificed for the mainstream appeal or, you know, mainstream release, but "Love Lies Bleeding" definitely does not do that.

DEPENBROCK: That's filmmaker and critic Drew Burnett Gregory. She says movies that feature queer characters front and center have always been around, but the accessibility of those films is a more recent phenomenon.

BURNETT GREGORY: Movies that aren't as widely available - sometimes that means that they're only available to people in major cities. And there are queer people everywhere. And so to have a movie that's going to get a wider release and have a famous person in it is really huge.

DEPENBROCK: Burnett Gregory says what's meaningful about "Love Lies Bleeding" is how flawed and complicated the characters are allowed to be.

BURNETT GREGORY: I do think it's a really special film and kind of a game-changer. And I think the hope is then, like, OK, will studios be able to look at this and go, oh, OK, like, we can put money towards a project like this?

DEPENBROCK: All this reminds queer film historian Jenni Olson of a line in Vito Russo's book "The Celluloid Closet."

JENNI OLSON: In the end, what most gay people want is interesting, challenging film experiences that do not make them feel insulted or invisible.

DEPENBROCK: What's exciting, Olson says, is to feel like that's happening now - to a certain degree.

Julie Depenbrock, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Julie Depenbrock
Julie Depenbrock (she/her) is an assistant producer on Morning Edition. Previously, she worked at The Washington Post and on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show. Depenbrock holds a master's in journalism with a focus in investigative reporting from the University of Maryland. Before she became a journalist, she was a first grade teacher in Rosebud, South Dakota. Depenbrock double-majored in French and English at Lafayette College. She has a particular interest in covering education, LGBTQ issues and the environment. She loves dogs, hiking, yoga and reading books for work (and pleasure).