When a director proudly claims his film is the first ever “Geriatric lesbian road trip movie” you know you’re dealing with a very specific niche genre.
Yet, Cloudburst’s tale of two golden girls on the run and on the road is actually a rather tender offering. Full of heart, it’s bound to have a far more universal appeal, because with these two feisty grannies on a Thelma & Louise-style juggernaut, you’ll soon find that you’ll have to strap yourself in, in order to keep up.
The story actually comes courtesy of director, Thom Fitzgerald who doubled as the original playwright and who penned the silver screen’s adaptation. He apparently wrote the part with Academy Award winner, Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) in mind; and it shows. This film would falter without her show-stopping performance as the acerbic and stubborn bull dyke, Stella. Typically clad in a flannelette shirt and cowboy hat, she is renowned for having a dirty mouth or one that would give The Thick Of It’s Malcolm Tucker a right serve.
Stella’s love interest is Dot (fellow Oscar winner, Brenda Fricker), a sweet and blind lady who doubles as the perfect sparring partner to her butch lover. The couple have been together for over three decades, although this fact has eluded Dot’s granddaughter, Molly, (Kristin Booth) who considers the two “Just good friends”.
After Dot has an accident at home, Molly pounces and tricks her Nan into signing over a power of attorney. Molly plans to lock the senior away in an old folks’ home but Stella puts in a good fight to maintain their comfortable and happy life. She goes undercover and busts Dot out and they decide that the only solution is to get married, in Canada (where it’s good and legal).
In a red, beat-up truck they travel via the picturesque landscapes from their native Maine through to Canada. Along the way they pick up a young and gorgeous male hitchhiker (Ryan Doucette) who plans to return to his childhood home to see his dying mother. The unlikely trio get involved in a number of different hijinks and hilarity occasionally ensues. Some of the moments are funnier than others and the ones that do fall short tend to be more of the slapstick variety of comedy.
Cloudburst succeeds as a film because it ultimately tackles a hot-button issue but depicts it with such grace that you’re left feeling terrific as the old-fashioned values of love and devotion shine through. It is a distinctive and unconventional film but also manages to retain a great deal of warmth, engaging viewers with its twists and turns, some oddball characters and some madcap fun. In short, Cloudburst is a joyous adventure where you’re guaranteed to have a gay, old time.
Review score: 8/10
Cloudburst is screening at Sydney’s Canadian Film Festival on August 17.
Runtime: 93 minutes