When her two mothers moved from downtown San Francisco to suburban L.A. life didn’t look that promising for young Tru (Najarra Townsend). It didn’t matter what the teenager’s own sexual preferences are, she is immediately ostracized because of her domestic situation.
Then the miraculous happens. The studly school quarterback, Lodell (Matthew Thompson), decides Tru is “cute,” and starts taking her to the movies, shows and his home. Tru’s social status elevates to the vaulted heights of Walt Whitman High. Yet there’s a rub, and it’s a lot more than Lodell’s grandmother (Nichelle Nichols) griping about her precious grandchild dating a white girl. Then Tru decides to form a gay-straight alliance, thus exposing a Gordian knot of relationships and prejudices, ensnaring her in the process.
Tru Loved is the latest effort of young writer/director Stuart Wade, who first made an impression on the alternative film scene with his film Coffee Date. This sophomore effort shows the man still has a solid grip on wordplay. He can also pull off an awkward situation without anyone in the audience feeling too uncomfortable. Then again, both films revolved around straight people having to cope with sexual identity and outside confusion.
Just released on DVD, the movie tries to walk the fine line between the cynical Juno and kitschy The Brady Bunch. There are uneven points, even some lows, but like high school itself it’s an overall enjoyable experience.
The main reason the film works is Najarra Townsend. Her performance as an overall likable, reasonable, even brainy teenager is credible, although some of her fantasy sequences probably never should have been shot. Matthew Thompson has his moments as the school’s star athlete needing more protection in the pocket than the entire student body imagines. It’s not hard to see where Thompson is hitting his acting limits, even with the foreknowledge this role wouldn’t be easy on more veteran actors, much less a talented newcomer.
One thing this does film have going for it is an endless stream of brilliant cameos from other, bigger named, actors. Besides the original Lt. Uhura (Nichols), serious contributions/cameos come from Glee’s Jane Lynch, Jasmine Guy, Bruce Vilanch, Marcia Wallace and many more. Nichols and Guy chew up the scenery as the Lodell’s prejudiced grandparent and parent, respectively. How they display their own shortcomings goes a long way towards understanding why their boy uses Tru as his own personal cover. It makes one wish there was more of these two ladies.
Another thing, even though he’s a relatively young creator, there are times when you have to think he’s gotten too far away from high school to remember what it’s like. Some of the teachers there, both straight and gay, are just way too stereotypical. They clash with the more natural performances of Townsend and other cast members. Some of the lines Wade makes them recite get a tad embarrassing.
Overall though, Tru Loved is a generally pleasant outing even if its feel good ending is a bit on the forced side. As for Wade, here’s to hoping his next feature film’s the charm.