by Paislee House, Film Critic
It isn’t too often I get to see a film that is both queer and takes place in St. Louis, so watching “Becks” was an immensely pleasant surprise. Co-written and directed by two St. Louis natives, “Becks” is the story of a musician in the throes of heartbreak while stuck in her hometown.
Daniel Powell and Elizabeth Rohrbaugh are both relatively new to the world of film. Powell has writing and production credits for television comedies including “Inside Amy Schumer,” while Rohrbaugh has done some previous documentary work. Given their relative newness, the two have great chemistry as co-directors/writers because their work is seamless. Though “Becks” is not a revolutionary story, the film is filled with enough Midwestern charm and relatable queerness that it feels unique and genuine.
Following her breakup, Becks heads back to what appears to be a suburb of St. Louis to live with her mother. Her mom is a morally upright Catholic, an ex-nun, but has appeared to work through most of her issues when it comes to her daughter’s sexual identity. The tension in their relationship now comes from Becks’ seemingly endless malaise and meddling in the personal lives of others.
When she’s not stressing out her mother, Becks can be found in a local bar among a thousand Schlafly endorsements and owned by her high school beard, Dave. The film was shot in New York, but features shots of the Arch and truly feels like it takes place in St. Louis. Though the characters kind of beat you over the head with references to “the Lou,” it’s still a sweet reminder that they’re in a beloved local spot.
With all of her flaws, Becks is still a likable character, or at least she’s easy to understand. As Becks, Lena Hall is able to convey a range of emotion that allows her character to transcend stereotype. Hall’s performance is a necessary function of the “Becks” equation because much of the story is predictable and could’ve easily become another mediocre lesbian film.
Not only does Hall excel as Becks, but Mena Suvari plays her opposite with a quiet curiosity that is both believable and alluring. When on screen together, the two have an undeniable chemistry that makes the film a joy to watch. Though the film is endlessly charming, it does suffer from its predictableness and unoriginal plot. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m too well-versed in lesbian film, but “Becks” features all of the classic lesbian tropes. Becks is a folk singer who wears a lot of plaid, Elyse (Suvari) is a bored, rich housewife and the familial struggles Becks faces with her mom and brother are some of the worst parts of the film.
Fortunately, Powell and Rohrbaugh overcome most of these plot hurdles with a script that mostly feels fresh and honest. It would be a shame to pass up seeing “Becks.” Whether you’re queer, from the St. Louis area or just like a good dramedy, “Becks” is more enjoyable than it is painful and more relatable than it is predictable. Though it’s far from perfect, it is sure to be one of the “don’t miss” films from the Saint Louis International Film Festival.
“Becks” will be screening Saturday, November 11th, at the Landmark Tivoli Theatre at 7:00pm as part of the SLIFF line-up.