By Hook or by Crook

In this remarkable debut feature, butch lesbians Silas Howard (of the queer band Tribe 8) and Harry Dodge (a performance artist who appeared in John Waters's Cecil B. Demented) cleverly subvert the male-bonding genre by casting themselves as the two leads. Shy (Howard) flees her small town for the big city and hooks up with Valentine (Dodge), a vulnerable waif in search of her mother. Much of what follows is fairly familiar—flirtations with girls, confrontations with the law, a botched holdup—except for the unsettling experience of watching the two women impersonate men with a breezy conviction. Their direction carefully modulates between humor and bathos, and the jarring home-movie cinematography of Ann T. Rossetti (Go Fish) captures with realism and intimacy a fringe Bay Area milieu that tolerates the blurring of the gender divide. With Joan Jett. 100 min.

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