The 1990s was an interesting decade in terms of cinematic sexual politics. On the one hand, filmmakers recognised the need to at least pay lip service to ‘progressive’ causes (feminism, queer activism, etc). On the other, these same filmmakers knew that they couldn’t isolate the ‘mum and dad’ viewers in them there suburbs, who would vote with their feet if the guy didn’t get the girl.
Enter All Men are Liars.
I first encountered Gerard Lee’s gender-bending rom-com on VHS in either late 1997 or early 1998. Though the film had hit the big screen a few years before, in 1995, and (according to the good people at Wikipedia) it did quite good box office business.
I can’t recall what I felt about All Men are Liars when I first saw it all those years ago. I vaguely remember a sense of indifference. Watching this one again in 2016, and it offers a fascinating (and disturbing) perspective on cultural and celluloid life circa the mid-90s.
The film is set in a rural Australian community. Mick (David Price) is a sensitive, musically-inclined young soul who wants to earn enough money to buy back his mother’s piano, so that she will return home. Mum, you see, upped stumps after father Barry (John Jarratt – aka the scary dude from Wolf Creek) hocked said instrument.
Anyways, an all-female band comes to town and Mick seizes upon an ideal way to make money: Join the group! He poses as Michelle, and has hit the stage with the band in no time. Predictably, though, things Get Complicated when Mick/Michelle falls for the lead singer, Angela (Toni Pearen), and she develops similar feelings.
The plot bears more than a slight resemblance to that of the Billy Wilder classic Some Like it Hot (1959). Unfortunately, David Price ain’t no Jack Lemmon or Tony Curtis. And Toni Pearen ain’t no Marilyn Monroe.
I vaguely recall that there was a minor buzz at the time of the film’s release because of the Pearen character’s dalliance with ‘lesbianism’. By 1995, Pearen had established a wholesome public image through her appearance on the soap opera E-Street and a slew of sugary pop hits. (All together now: “What a perfect world/Lying in your room …”)
Yes, many an actor has tried to look edgy by going ‘gay for pay’. In All Men are Liars, though, gayness seems so far away. Ange has fallen for a bloke who’s ransacked his mother’s wardrobe in order to make a quid (ironic, given the masculine bias – let alone the cissexism and transphobia – of the entertainment business). Mick’s performance of femininity yields a few cheap laughs (those laughs you get when you stumble on a rerun of a ‘90s sitcom at midnight), but no interesting insights into gender itself.
I think the moment when All Men are Liars gives itself a way is in one of Angela’s musical numbers. The musical number has frequently served as an expository moment in film (“Put the blame on Mame!”), and hoo-boy, does the number in this film expose a lot:
I don’t wanna be with nobody but you
No, no, no, no
I don’t wanna be with noone but you
I wanna be wrapped up in the arms of my loving man
(Come on and rock me)
Rock my in your arms like I know you can
Oh, okay, perhaps that was rough. The’90s costumes and hairstyles are chuckle-worthy (Yep, those chuckles you get when you stumble on a rerun of a ‘90s sitcom at midnight). And the Scary Guy from Wolf Creek is cool.
Okay, stay tuned for next week’s Video Shop Daze post, in which M.C. Jay tangles with 1980s ‘greed is good’ vampires in Dracula’s Last Rites (1980).