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The Problem with Katherine Heigl’s New Lesbian Movie Is The Heigl Part, Not the Lesbian Part

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The beleaguered star hasn't had a hit since 2011.

Jenny's Wedding is a movie about a woman who is openly gay to everyone except her loving but conservative family. But when she gets engaged to a woman, it's time for her to come out. The movie is about how the family reacts. It stars Katherine Heigl and Alexis Bledel, with Tom Wilkinson, Linda Emond, and Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter). It's currently raising funds on Indigogo to finish post-production. 

The Advocate's Michelle Garcia wrote an op-ed called "Why Hollywood's Scared of Katherine Heigl's Gay Wedding." In it, she theorizes about why major studios were not interested in funding Jenny's Wedding:

It seems that it's because without independent financing, this movie — where the star of so many modern rom-coms like 27 Dresses and Knocked Up plays a lesbian coming out to her family on the precipice of getting married — wouldn't even get made. According to writer-director Mary Agnes Donoghue and producer Michelle Manning, Jenny's Wedding is not the type of film a major studio would back these days, and it's not because the main character is a lesbian. If anything, it seems to be because the main character doesn't go through enough strife and pain…

The indie process, while clearly arduous and up-in-the-air, is at least freeing to those who want to say something with their film, even if the message is that the lives of LGBT people can have conflict but it's not necessarily all gloom-and-doom.

What Garcia neglects to mention is the fact that Hollywood has turned against Katherine Heigl. Heigl and her manager mother's difficult personalities are well-documented, and Heigl herself has alluded to professional trouble. She hasn't starred in a hit movie since 2011's Life As We Know It. She recently signed with her third talent agency in two years. Part of the reason the film has had difficulty with funding is likely due to studios being hesitant to work with Heigl. 

Another likely reason Jenny's Wedding had trouble securing studio funding is clearly mentioned in the op-ed: the film's conflict is too low-stakes for Hollywood. Any screenwriting teacher will say that stakes and conflict are the key to a successful script. A movie about a character who has to tell her loving family something that will make them uncomfortable but still love her just isn't studio material. We have progressed past a point where coming out is not longer the huge drama it once was. Congrats, gay civil rights movement, this is what victory looks like and it is bittersweet indeed.

Paradoxically, a movie that reflects reality is less appealing to audiences. A movie where LGBT people can have low-key, upper-middle-class conflict is great and progressive, but that movie's failure to make money is not an indicator of Hollywood's unwillingness to embrace gay themes. Upper-middle-class family dramas are never box office smashes, and this movie sounds like a movie like Pieces of April or The Squid and the Whale: a good movie, but small by design, low budget, and catered to a highly specific audience. Saying that Hollywood is afraid of Jenny's Wedding for having LGBT themes is creating conflict that isn't there. I mean, did this woman see The Kids Are Alright?

[h/t Daily Dot]

image via geekchic89