Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
Inspired by the same syndrome that made people pay attention (at least until they saw the films) to "Surf Nazis Must Die" and "Snakes on a Plane," I threw the dice and watched Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, based entirely on the catchy, clever name.
Usually, one rolls snake-eyes in these situations, but I lucked out and got a seven. "Space Alien," it turns out, is a funny comedy of manners, a satire that encompasses 1950s second-billed drive-in sci-fi, those incredibly adventurous and annoyingly sincere lesbian indie romances, suspense thrillers involving mysterious government agents in black suits and black town cars, and U.S. consumer culture in general.
Playwright Madeleine Olnek takes the old Conehead skits from "Saturday Night Live" as the model for her monotone-spouting, seemingly non-affecting aliens whose outsider look at modern America provide deeply funny commentary on consumer culture. Exiled from their planet because their emotions are believed to be destroying its ozone layer, the all-female alien invaders all land in the one city where everyone pointedly ignores their weirdness: New York.
Paralleling the aliens' alienated affections is the poignant back-story of Jane, a homely, overweight, dowdy woman (beautifully underplayed by Lisa Haas) who has a beyond-dead-end job in the kind of stationary store where the photocopying machine is a major source of income.
In an example of the kind of subtle, satiric-but-warm gentle humor that makes this little film such a gem, we witness Jane's interactions with a senile old man as exemplary of her lonely, loveless existence. We first meet her, however, in a session with her therapist, whose clueless words of wisdom parallel Jane's own utter lack of personal insight.
Next we get a montage of a newly arrived space alien's blind dates with several women whose responses to meeting an attractive, bald-headed mechanical-speaking woman range from horror to mild outrage. For Jane, however, the alien presents the perfect blank slate to write her own long-delayed book of love.
A subplot involves a pair of agents for a government agency (unnamed, but I presume the CIA) who are tailing Jane as part of a secret program to keep the public uninformed about the existence of aliens in their midst. The film's funniest, laugh-out-loud segment incorporates real ABC News footage of an incident in which Manhattanites mistook congratulatory balloons for space ships.
The interactions between the two agents -- a dimwitted trainer and his secret-alien protégé -- are as hilariously deadpan as all of the other dialogue. Consider the one thing on earth that brings the aliens to an emotional boil: the dessert carousel in a diner.
Aided by wonderful cinematography that brings to mind Woody Allen's "Manhattan," Olnek clearly has a real affection for New York. Her deadpan style and sympathy with life's losers and outsiders brings to mind Jim Jarmusch's landmark indie film "Stranger in Paradise."
"Space Aliens" is not only a worthy successor to that film, but it plants Olnek in the very best tradition of Downtown Manhattan indie filmmaking. Olnek takes her obviously very, very low budget and uses it for some nice, Ed Wood-like effects. She's also helped by a very talented cast.
As someone who normally rolls his eyes at the pretentiousness of most indie films, I was pleasantly surprised by "Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same." I'm not sure what kind of theatrical roll-out the distributor has planned, but keep an eye out for it when it comes to DVD.
- - -
Screening at The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival