Have Cathy Moriarty and Kathleen Turner become the same person? Every year or so, one of them gets cast as a blowsy, angry, frog-voiced harridan in a movie that reeks of camp misogyny, and it always takes me a minute or two to figure out which one I’m watching. Is it the former neo-noir sexpot of ”Raging Bull” or the former neo-noir sexpot of ”Body Heat”? At this point, John Waters should probably team the two of them in a glorious boomer-hag remake of ”What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”
Sitting through the poisonously smug, one-joke indie comedy But I’m a Cheerleader, I quickly figured out that this time it’s Moriarty. She’s got a distinctive fascist whiplash hostility as she blurts out lines like ”You hormonal hussy!” Moriarty plays the leader of True Directions, a rehab retreat dedicated to turning adolescent homosexuals, whether girls or boys, into nice, straight, upstanding citizens. Natasha Lyonne, whose freckle-faced sincerity leaves her stranded when she’s trying to be ironic, is the heroine, whose suburban parents stage a lesbian ”intervention.” At True Directions, the girls, who might be training to appear in a ’50s commercial for laundry detergent, wear pink, learn how to vacuum and try on bridal gowns, and electroshock their same-sex impulses away. But, wouldn’t you know, it all just makes them hornier.
The organizations that are currently laboring to ”deprogram” people from gay to straight could use a bit of deprogramming themselves, but the issue is just prevalent enough to call for a genuine hot-button satire, and not this jejune fantasy of prison-camp homogenization. When Lyonne makes out with a tomboy bad girl played by Clea DuVall, who’s like Ally Sheedy’s derisive kid sister, ”But I’m a Cheerleader” turns gushy and earnest, with folk-grunge acoustic strums canonizing their sensitivity. Forget pink dresses and housework: Any self-respecting lesbian should rear up in horror at a movie that tells her that THIS is how she’s supposed to be.