Review: An anti-gay group made an actual film, and we watched it so you don’t have to
As the American Family Association branches into films, Nick Duffy reviews their first effort, Summer Snow.
The American Family Association are often referred to as an anti-gay group – and that’s not just rhetoric.
They who won’t accept mail with a gay man’s face on, are terrified the world will be taken over by gay burgers, and their president is a grown man who thinks gay people kissing is “gross” (but also spends his time thinking about “beefcake” in the shower).
That’s why I found the group’s attempt to break into Hollywood with a feature film, Summer Snow – which AFA President Tim Wildmon ominously describes as “the first of many” – to be so confusing.
Curiosity piqued, I tracked down a copy of the ‘wholesome, family friendly’ film this week, when it premiered on an obscure cable channel, having failed to secure actual distribution.
The shameless family values flick stars David Chisum as family man and dentist Dan Benson, doing his best impression of Hal from Malcom in the Middle (pre-Heisenberg days).
He has a young daughter, Hallie (Rachel Eggleston), who comes across just the wrong side of obnoxious, an older daughter (Cameron Goodman), who mainly exists to talk about how bad abortion is, and a teenage son who might as well not be in the film because he has about four lines, all of them moody.
The family are struggling to cope following the death of Dr Dan’s wife – it’s never explicitly stated what she died from, so I choose to assume same-sex marriage is to blame – but the entire 86 minutes of plot is little more than window dressing, covering thinly-veiled ‘morals’ about about pre-martial sex, masturbation, porn and abortion.
There are various sub-plots, about Hallie’s relationship with an elderly neighbour, and her attempts to raise money for a friend, but the filmmakers squander every chance they have to do anything other than peddle their hardline conservative message.
There are many other faults with the film, but the poor dialogue deserves special mention.
Early into the film, there is a lengthy emotional conversation about a tuna sandwich which doesn’t have any pickles – intended as a metaphor for loss, but as the actress pleads about “missing the pickles”, it’s hard to take anything too seriously.
When a friendly neighborhood pastor – never referenced before or after – materialises halfway through the film to break into a scene and invite everyone to church, I gave up on attempts to find anything salvageable about the plot.
The film’s conclusion, meanwhile, is frankly callous, resorting to shock tactics in a last-ditch attempt to make you care about its characters through – spoiler alert – the most contrived ‘tragic accident’ you will ever see.
If there are to be redeeming features, you aren’t going to find them in the soundtrack, which consists entirely of non-stop acoustic piano, designed to be ‘uplifting’ but which wears thin very, very quickly.
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The film’s setting is also baffling – it’s never made clear where the film is based, but it appears to be some sort of AFA dystopian vision of suburbia, in which everyone is straight, white and middle class, and the only non-white character is a little girl literally referred to as ‘the alien’.
I don’t know where all the people who aren’t white, straight and middle class have been shipped to, but it already sounds like the set-up for a more compelling film.
Sexuality is, of course, unmentionable in Summer Snow.
It isn’t just that there aren’t any gay people, it’s that it isn’t even a possibility – the AFA might not be displaying overt homophobia in the plot, but its agenda is present throughout.
And that’s why this film exists: the American Family Association is realising it is losing the war for maintream culture. Summer Snow is a struggle to maintain some sort of bubble-culture, and mercifully it’s a failed one.
The group promises its foray into filmmaking will continue, through its American Family Studios. We can hardly wait.