If the cast of kids met up with the cast of Clueless, they might make Coming Soon, a smart, saucy film about three Manhattan private-school girls who want personal experience of what might be called the “Molly Bloom moment.” You can imagine such a film, perhaps, but you can’t watch it – unless you have tickets to this weekend’s Nantucket Film Festival, where it plays on June 19 – because no theatrical distributor will touch Coming Soon, even though the raciest scene involves two girls in a Jacuzzi who never remove their bikinis. Twenty-five years ago, when Fellini made Amarcord, in which a bunch of teenage boys bounced their way to solitary release in a parked car, critics raved. But when the young director Colette Burson allowed a teenage female character to reach a no-hands epiphany via a conveniently placed water jet, studio honchos cringed, more than one described the film as “too lurid,” and the MPAA gave the film a crippling NC-17 rating.
You might think post-sexual-revolution America had moved beyond the double standard. A quarter-century after Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, seventeen years after the carrot love lesson in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and months since an Oval Office cigar made the nightly news, you might think a director could make a movie about girls’ seeking what Barbara Walters euphemistically described to Monica Lewinsky as “things … that made you feel, as a woman, happy and contented.” Think again.
Burson, 30, knew from the start that her movie was subversive. “When I showed the script to male directors, they’d say, ‘I love it, but let’s make it less about the girl-sex thing,’ ” she recalls. “Meanwhile, every teen movie you see is all about boys’ getting lucky.” Burson decided to make the film herself, assembling a winning cast that includes the rising actors Bonnie Root, Ryan Reynolds, and Gaby Hoffmann along with Mia Farrow, Ryan O’Neal, and Spalding Gray.
Coming Soon premiered in April at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. Audiences raved, and teenage girls came back for a second screening. “I wasn’t surprised when women loved the movie, but I didn’t expect that so many men would hate it,” says Burson. “A production designer went up to my editor and said, ‘It really makes me mad – these girls act like they have a right to an orgasm.’ ” A female executive who tried to buy the film through a major studio was astonished when a male higher-up turned it down. “I saw it with a whole bunch of women,” she reports, “and they gave it a standing ovation.”
Jill Goode, a co-founder of the Nantucket festival, will screen the uncut NC-17 version (to get an R rating, Burson trimmed the kind of gum-cracking conversations you overhear Fieldston girls holding at Zabar’s). “I think it’s a universal film for girls,” she says. “It’s very smartly written – that’s why we’re closing the festival with it. I think it’s a crowd pleaser.” Mia Farrow, who plays a sharing-caring hippie mother, agrees: “It touches so precisely and so cleverly on so many things.” So would she vouch for the film? Yes she said yes she would Yes.