Loving Annabelle – 100 Best Lesbian Movies

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First up on my list of the 100 Best Lesbian Movies is Loving Annabelle.

Loving Annabelle Plot Summary (Spoilers):

carLoving Annabelle begins with a girl riding in a limo. We see someone looking at a newspaper with the headline, “Senator’s Daughter Causes Trouble Again.” The limo drops the girl, whose name is Annabelle, off in front of a Catholic school, where she is told someone will be out to collect her soon. A girl named Kristin introduces herself and recognizes Annabelle as the daughter of Senator Tillman. Kristen is super impressed and tells Annabelle that her mother is her idol. Another student, named Catherine (Cat), is not so impressed. She notes that Annabelle is in a band, like her dad, who Kristen informs her is in rehab, and warns Annabelle not to let “them” catch her smoking.

A teacher named Simone, gives Annabelle the dime tour and warns her she might want to hide her Buddhist prayer beads under her shirt and take her nose ring out, but Annabelle doesn’t heed her advice. Simone leaves Annabelle at the dining hall, where she sits at a table by herself, but is soon joined by a student named Collins, however when Cat shows up, Collins leaves. Kristen joins them, freaking out about failing chemistry, which Cat tells Annabelle is because it’s Kristen’s second go round as a senior.

prissyAnnabelle shares her dorm room with Kristen, Cat, Collins and a porcupine named “Prissy” that Collins found in the woods. The scene shifts to the classroom, where Simone is reading a poem by Walt Whitman. Cat pipes up that Walt Whitman was gay, which Simone confirms. Cat goes on to point out that he must have been writing the poem about a man then, while some of the other girls giggle. Cat gets kicked out of the class for picking on Collins.

The setting shifts again, to Simone having dinner with another teacher named Michael. Michael wants to know if she’s thought any more about moving in with him and she tells him that she isn’t ready to leave the school. He points out that she can live off-campus and still teach at the school, the way he does. She changes the subject.

annabelleWhen Annabelle interprets a poem as being about sex, during one of Simone’s classes, Simone asks to speak to her after class and accuses her of trying to “get a rise out of” her. Annabelle flirtatiously tells Simone that she is “intrigued” by her. Simone asks her to be more appropriate with her comments in her class.

Mother Immaculata, the woman in charge of the school, calls Simone into her office and tells her they need to have a serious talk about Annabelle. Meanwhile, Annabelle and her roommates are drinking liquor, a gift from Cat’s father. Annabelle opines that Cat’s dad seems cool and Cat responds, “when he’s sober.” Cat decides they should play a drinking game called “I never.” Annabelle opens up with “I’ve never had sex with another woman,” and then takes a drink, indicating that she has. Cat calls bullshit, but Anna says it’s not that big a deal. Cat remarks that they finally have another lesbian, which she was worried they’d never have after the last one graduated.

beadsSimone catches them drinking and they all leave, except for Annabelle. Simone tells Annabelle that she really needs her to start trying to fit in. Anna points out that she’s not even Catholic. Anna agrees to lose the nose ring, but she balks at getting rid of her Buddhist prayer beads. The scene shifts to Mother Immaculata demanding Annabelle hand over the beads. Anna refuses and Mother Immaculata asks her if getting kicked out of her first two schools wasn’t enough for her. She then commands Anna to wear this big honkin cross and add another one for every day she refuses to remove the beads. Anna refuses to wear the cross and Mother Immaculata informs her that her mother has told her that if she doesn’t comply, she’ll be sent to military school next. Anna puts the cross on and leaves the room. Simone tells Mother Immaculata that she should move Annabelle to another dorm, because Simone can’t control her. Mother Immaculata responds that it shouldn’t be too hard, after all, she was able to control Simone.

Cat passes Anna a note in class, asking if she has a girlfriend. Anna writes, “women suck!!” on the note and passes it back. Simone confiscates the note and tosses it in the garbage. She keeps Anna after class and asks her why she isn’t wearing her rosary. Anna approaches Simone and grabs the cross she wears around her neck and asks her if she would take it off if Mother Immaculata told her to. Simone doesn’t answer. Anna puts on her rosary and leaves.

simoneBack in her room, Simone leafs through a photo album which contains photos of her and another woman she appears to have been romantically involved with.

Simone approaches Anna in the library and hands her a book. She suggests that maybe Anna could carry her prayer beads in her pocket or hide them in her bag where no one can see them. Anna tells her that she’ll think about it. Simone asks why Anna is making this so hard and she tells her that the first person she fell in love with gave them to her. Simone asks if Anna is still in love with him and Anna responds that she moved to Europe with her family. Later on, Anna thanks Simone for the book and Simone thanks her for taking off the beads.

Anna spots Simone working on some photographs and complements her on her photography skills. She finds a photo of Simone’s parents, who Simone says she isn’t close to, and notes that her mother looks like Mother Immaculata. Simone tells her that’s because they are sisters. Anna spots some photos of the woman from the photo album and remarks that Simone and the woman looked “close.” Simone says that the woman’s name was Amanda and they grew up together, but she died a few years ago. Collins interrupts and tells Simone that she thinks Prissy is dead.

collinsCat tells Collins that at least she doesn’t have to smell Prissy’s gas anymore and Collins runs out of the room crying. Anna follows and tries to comfort her. Anna examines Collins wrist, where she has been cutting, while Simone watches in the background.

That night, Cat joins Anna outside and they share a joint, another gift from Cat’s dad. Cat asks Anna how it’s going with Simone and Anna says nothing is going with Simone. Cat says she had a crush on Simone when she was a freshman, but she’s not gay, she’s into guys too. She tells Anna that the previously graduated lesbian used to be obsessed with Simone. Anna tells Cat that she’s not obsessed with Simone, but doesn’t deny that she likes her.

eye-rollSimone has dinner with Michael and another couple, who announce they are renewing their vows. She surreptitiously watches a lesbian couple cuddling over at the bar, while the others celebrate. She has sex with MIchael later that night, but doesn’t look all that into it. Simone tries to sneak back into the dorm, but her aunt hears her and asks her to come sit with her. She comments that she doesn’t understand why Simone is still with Michael, because he’s not good enough for her. Simone tells her she’s really tired and is going to bed.

cat-annaAnna is swimming in the pool. Cat joins her and then begins kissing her. Anna stops her and tells her that she’s not interested in being her “science project.”

The next day, Simone receives a bouquet of flowers. The card has no signature, but the sender has written the same quote that Simone wrote in the book she gave Anna.

Anna goes to see Simone in Simone’s room and Simone tells her that she can’t be in there. Anna ignores her. She tells Simone that Cat kissed her, but that Cat isn’t her type and then Anna tries to kiss Simone, but Simone tells her to stop and Anna leaves. Later, Simone goes to the chapel and fantasizes about Anna touching her.

Anna has to remain at the dorms during Spring Break, and as a result, so does Simone, even though she protests to her aunt that she really  needs to get away.

beachAnna talks Simone into taking her off campus, even though she’s not supposed to. Simone takes her to her house on the beach. Anna asks Simone if she was in love with Amanda and Simone says that she was. Anna remarks that Simone is still wearing Amanda’s cross, which she noticed Amanda wearing in Simone’s photos. This seems to upset Simone and she takes off down the beach.

Anna goes looking for Simone at the house, but she isn’t there. Anna finds and reads what appears to be Amanda’s suicide note. Simone returns and sees Anna with the letter and is angry. Anna tells Simone that she’s sorry that she read the letter, but that Simone can’t keep running away from this. Anna tries to comfort Simone, in spite of Simone’s protests. Anna embraces Simone and Simone begins to weep.

sleepThe scene shifts to Anna & Simone asleep in bed. Simone takes Anna back to the school. Anna approaches Simone’s room that night, but then changes her mind and leaves.

The other girls return to school and while they are eating breakfast, Cat accuses Anna of having slept with Simone, which Anna denies. Mother Immaculata announces that Friday is their annual end of the year dance with St. Paul’s. Most of the girls celebrate, but Anna does not look enthused. Cat tells them that her brother and his band are playing at the dance and suggests that maybe Anna could play with them. Cat remarks that they’ve never seen Anna sing or play the guitar and maybe it’s just all for show. Anna storms off.

simone-michaelAnna continues to flirt with Simone and Simone continues to rebuff her advances. When Simone continues to hem and haw on giving Michael an answer about moving in with him, he tells her that he wants to be with someone who knows they want to be with him. Simone tells Michael that she wants that for him too and he is less than pleased with her response.

Back at school, Anna asks Simone why she hasn’t spoken to her in two weeks and Simone responds that she, “can’t do this.” Anna tells her that they aren’t doing anything wrong. Mother Immaculata notices them and watches through the window in the classroom door. Simone repeats that she can’t do this and Anna leaves. Mother Immaculata asks Simone if something is wrong and she denies it. Simone’s aunt tells her that she’d like to think that if anything were wrong, or if Simone needed anything, she would ask. Simone tells her aunt that she doesn’t need anything.

fightCat continues to harass Anna about Simone and Anna tells her that she’s sick of Cat’s smart-ass comments. Cat continues with her needling and a fist fight ensues, which Simone breaks up. She tells Anna to see the nurse, but Anna refuses. Anna storms out of the room and Simone follows, but Anna angrily tells Simone not to touch her.

Later, Anna walks into the school dance and sees Simone dancing with Michael and she turns around and leaves. Cat’s brother finds Anna outside smoking and she returns to the dorm and grabs her guitar and the lyrics to a song she wrote, puts on her prayer beads and returns to the dance. Anna gives Simone some meaningful looks, while she sings the song she wrote. Simone listens for a while, but then goes outside.

kissAnna follows Simone and the two kiss and then head back to Simone’s room, where they have sex.

The next morning, at breakfast, Collins wonders aloud where Anna was, since she didn’t spend the night in their room. Cat tells the other girls that she was probably with Simone, but Kristen immediately rejects the idea. Collins says she doesn’t care if they’re together, because she likes them both. Cat goes over to Mother Immaculata’s table and tells her that she’s concerned about Simone and Annabelle.

When Simone realizes they  have overslept, she wakes Anna in a panic, but Mother Immaculata arrives while they are still getting dressed. Mother Immaculata demands to see Simone in her office, “right now.” Simone tells Anna to leave.

beads2Mother Immaculata asks Simone how she could let something like this happen. Simone tells her that she’s not saying what she did was right and that she doesn’t expect her aunt to understand, but she loves Anna. Some sort of police or government officials or something arrive and escort Simone from the building. Anna spots the government cars outside and rushes to the school, where she runs up to Simone and hands her, her prayer beads. The other students stare at Anna as she walks back to her dorm.

Anna returns to Simone’s room and looks at the photos Simone took of her at the beach, while Simone fingers the prayer beads Anna gave her in the car. The film ends with the quote:

“For one human being to love another; That is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks…The work for which all other work is but preparation. -Rainer Maria Rilke.”

Loving Annabelle Commentary (Spoilers):

I’m neither a fan of May-December romances nor of student-teacher romances, so I didn’t go into Loving Annabelle with particularly high expectations. Nevertheless, I found myself actually enjoying the movie.

I thought the film tackled its controversial subject thoughtfully and for the most part tastefully. My one point of contention with the film is that, at least by the quote at the end and by the alternate ending on the DVD, where Simone doesn’t face any charges and it is implied that she and Anna continue their “romance,” is the idea that this story is some sort of great romance.

We have Simone, who’s first love committed suicide (because all movie lesbians are required to have at least one dead girlfriend by the age of 35), attempting to live the heterosexual lifestyle with her boyfriend Michael. However, instead of doing something sensible like teaching at a normal school or at least living off-campus, she continues to teach at an all-girl school and live in the dorms, so she is surrounded by temptation at all times. Perhaps the school reminds her of happier times with Amanda. Maybe she thought immersing herself in Catholic dogma, with her strict aunt as overseer would keep her on the straight and narrow. Or perhaps, Anna isn’t the first obsessed teenager Simone “gave in to.” Whatever the explanation, I can’t help but think that if Simone had been pursing a healthy relationship with an adult woman, instead of suppressing her homosexual desires, perhaps she wouldn’t have found Anna so appealing. While, I don’t doubt Simone felt genuine affection and empathy for Anna, I’m skeptical that her attraction was as much “love” as it was lust, mixed with a  healthy dose of unresolved issues with her dead ex and exacerbated by her attempts to deny her true sexuality.

Annabelle, on the other hand, is 17. At that age, everyone thinks every relationship is “the one.” She’s obviously infatuated with Simone, but she doesn’t seem to pause to consider the potential serious consequences pursuing a relationship with Simone could have for Simone at any point. That doesn’t suggest love to me either. She seems more like a horny teenager with some mommy issues (another lesbian movie trope). Again, I believe that she does care about Simone, but I don’t think she’s really in love with her.

What I did like about the film is how it presented Simone as conflicted about her own actions. She knows that a relationship with Anna is a bad and morally questionable idea, but she feels drawn to her anyway. She has multiple chances to get herself out of the situation….she could have moved out of the dorm. She could have confessed her conflict to her aunt, etc., but she doesn’t take any of them. In the end, she does what she knows she shouldn’t but wants anyway, because the heart (and some other body parts) wants what the heart wants.

The movie also briefly touches on some other lesbian and teenagery issues, but doesn’t really dwell on them. Collins, who actually ended up being my favorite character in the movie, is the victim of constant bullying by Cat and she is also a cutter. Cat is possibly an asshole because of her shitty and neglectful parents. Kristen has already been held back once and is still struggling with her academics. None of that gets much attention.

Cat’s maybe lesbian, maybe bisexual, maybe experimenting straight-girl status plays a larger role in the film. Cat presents as a bit of a tomboy/soft butch type and seems to have a bad case of ADS, but she’s either not ready to claim the lesbian label or she’s just a butchy bisexual/bicurious girl with a bad attitude. Either way, her attempt to romance Anna results in the classic lesbian/bisexual conflict of “is she really into me or does she just want to get her kicks and then hop back on a dick.” Personally, I think Cat actually liked Anna, but was too afraid to just come out and say it and I think Anna was just not really into Cat and was mostly being a jerk with her “I don’t want to be your science-experiment” rebuff. The end result was, Cat felt angry and rejected and decided to get her revenge by telling Mother Immaculata about Anna’s relationship with Simone, which was probably actually the right thing to do, but I doubt her motivation was actual concern for Anna.

It all adds up to a film that isn’t perfect, but that is enjoyable and gives you something to think about. Thumbs up to those of you out there who had this one on your “best of” list.

 

100 Best Lesbian Films – The List

As with my other best of lists, I compiled this list by looking at best of lists on the Internet and then taking the 100 titles that made the most appearances.

  1. Desert Hearts
  2. Heavenly Creatures
  3. Loving Annabelle
  4. Saving Face
  5. Tipping the Velvet
  6. Better Than Chocolate
  7. Bound
  8. But I’m a Cheerleader
  9. Fingersmith
  10. Gia
  11. Imagine Me & You
  12. Lost & Delirious
  13. Monster
  14. My Summer of Love
  15. The Color Purple
  16. The Hours
  17. The Kids Are All Right
  18. A Marine Story
  19. Aimee & Jaguar
  20. Blue is the Warmest Color
  21. D.E.B.S
  22. Girl, Interrupted
  23. High Art
  24. I Can’t Think Straight
  25. Itty Bitty Titty Committee
  26. Kissing Jessica Stein
  27. Personal Best
  28. Show Me Love
  29. The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love
  30. The Runaways
  31. The Secrets
  32. The Truth About Jane
  33. When Night is Falling
  34. A Girl Thing
  35. Affinity
  36. All Over Me
  37. An Unexpected Love
  38. Bloomington
  39. Boys Don’t Cry
  40. Boys on the Side
  41. Carol
  42. Chasing Amy
  43. Circumstance
  44. Cloudburst
  45. Codependent Lesbian Space Aliens Seeks Same
  46. Concussion
  47. Cracks
  48. Elena Undone
  49. Fire
  50. Four-Faced Liar
  51. Foxfire
  52. Fried Green Tomatoes
  53. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  54. Go Fish
  55. Gray Matters
  56. If These Walls Could Talk 2
  57. It’s in the Water
  58. Kyss Mig
  59. La repetition
  60. Lianna
  61. Love my Life
  62. Madchen in Uniform
  63. Mullholland Drive
  64. Oranges are not the only Fruit
  65. Rent
  66. Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story
  67. Silkwood
  68. Sister My Sister
  69. Spider Lilies
  70. The Gymnast
  71. The Hunger
  72. The Journey
  73. The Night Watch
  74. The Secret Diaries of Ms. Anne Lister
  75. The Watermelon Woman
  76. Water Lilies
  77. Yes or No
  78. You and Me Forever
  79. Bitch Hug
  80. Bumblefuck USA
  81. By Hook or by Crook
  82. Claire of the Moon
  83. Don’t you Worry, It Will Probably Pass
  84. Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement
  85. Female Perversions
  86. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
  87. Appropriate Behaviour
  88. Jamie and Jessie are Not Together
  89. Jenny’s Wedding
  90. Late Bloomers
  91. Between Two Women
  92. Pride
  93. Producing Adults
  94. Red Doors
  95. Set it Off
  96. Tank Girl
  97. The World Unseen
  98. Bye Bye Blondie
  99. What’s Cooking
  100. Chloe