Published Mar 07, 2013Elderly lesbians Stella (Olympia Dukakis) and Dot (Brenda Fricker) live in rural Maine, with little interruption or need for external stimuli. Dot's eyesight is limited to light and vague shapes, which leaves Stella acting as a caretaker, for the most part, using her surly disposition to protect and guide her long-time lover.
After a play fight with a personal pleasure device leaves Dot in the hospital, her granddaughter, Molly (Kristin Booth), steps in to enforce her power of attorney, putting her grandmother in a retirement home and leaving Stella without a domicile or lover.
In set up, Cloudburst sounds like an exercise in twee Canadian treacle, much like Michael McGowan's middle finger to bureaucracy, Still Mine. But within ten minutes of the film's opening, Olympia Dukakis is calling Kristin Booth a "cunt" and beating the crap out of a police officer that tries to take away her lover.
Thom Fitzgerald's ersatz testament to the beauty of gay marriage and the freedom and open expanse that the Great White North has to offer — the couple escape from a nursing home and flee to Canada for the latter half of the film — is both heartfelt and hilariously raunchy. Once Stella and Dot embark upon their road trip and pick up Prentice (Ryan Doucette), a stripper with a heart of gold, discussions about public urination and making a death row final meal out of k.d. Lang's midge keep the laughs coming consistently.
While it's odd that a movie about elderly lesbians would indulge in casual, gratuitous, full-frontal male nudity — played for comic value when Dukakis recoils in disgust and mocks the size — the sarcastic disposition and tone suggest deliberate efforts to unite gay and lesbian audiences that traditionally tend to stick to niche films specific to their interests. This tactic is appropriate, seeing as there's a thematic trajectory of bureaucracy as an imposing force on the lives of lovers merely looking to experience the same freedoms as everyone else.
It doesn't hurt that both Dukakis and Fricker deliver rich, bang-on performances as a couple with vastly different dispositions. Dot has a calm, open likability that makes her attraction to the curmudgeonly, foul-mouthed Stella extremely convincing, which is particularly evident when she giggles at her casual crudity.
If there is a flaw in Cloudburst, it's the awkward handling of Kristin Booth's granddaughter character. Booth does a fair job with the material she's handed, but its archetypal and cartoonish, which doesn't fit well with other characters, who are slightly more realistic and fleshed out.
Fortunately, scenes involving her merely bookend the film, leaving everything else to play as equal parts dirty and sincere. (eMotion)