Dir: Jamie Babbit. US. 1999. 90 mins.
Prod cos: Ignite Entertainment, The Kushner-Locke Company. Int'l sales: Franchise Pictures, tel (1) 323 822 0730. Exec prods: Michael Burns, Marc Butan. Prods: Andrea Sperling, Leanna Creel. Scr: Brian Wayne Peterson. DoP: Jules La Barthe. Prod des: Rachel Kamerman. Ed: Cecily Rhett. Music: Pat Irwin. Main cast: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul Charles, Bud Cort, Mink Stole, Melanie Lynskey, Julie Delpy, Michelle Williams.
Babbit, whose two shorts played heavily on the festival circuit in 1997/8, makes an assured feature debut with this gauche gay-themed comedy that, while polarising liberal Toronto audiences, nevertheless scored a domestic sale to Fine Line. Divided critics aside, it should be a popular item among specialised audiences around the world.
The John Waters influence is pervasive from the use of one of his favourite actors (Mink Stole) to the giddy colour scheme to the camp, cartoonish notion of a school to straighten out homosexuals. Lyonne plays cheerleader Megan whose friends and parents (Stole, Cort) detect signs that she's a lesbian and cart her off to Moriarty's rehab camp True Directions where she is taught traditional hetero values in a 12-step programme alongside other 'confused' teens. However, before long she's fallen for classmate, the tomboyish Graham (DuVall).
But I'm A Cheerleader is crammed with ingredients designed to make it beloved of the gay and liberal straight crowd - Moriarty as the overbearing matron, RuPaul Charles (aka RuPaul) as one of her camp supervisors, Julie Delpy as a lesbian dancer. If it comes off as calculating, however, it's also relentlessly cheerful and highly amusing, and Lyonne sparkles with presence as Megan.