REVIEWS YOU CAN USE: It’s not often that you come across dark comedies about hermaphrodites. Openly gay JB Ghuman Jr’s film Spork may be the first of its kind. It is currently touring the festival circuit, but does Spork have a true edge or is it just plastic and oblong?
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Spork is a female-identified middle-school hermaphrodite who lives in a trailer with her grease monkey brother Spit, her taxidermied dog, and her dead mom buried out back. Tormented by Becky Byotch and her Britney Spears-obsessed clones, Spork decides to compete in her middle-school dance off. Can Spork’s krunking bestie, aggressive Asian pal, and femmy crush help her find her groove?
WHO’S IN IT?: Savannah Stehlin plays Spork, the frizzy-haired underdog whose noble suffering embodies the triumphs and horrors of junior high hell. She’s nearly upstaged by her ghetto fabulous best friend Tootsie Roll (hilariously played by sure-to-be-a-big-star Sydney Park). Rodney Eastman plays Spork’s protective older brother Spit and Elaine Hendrix plays Felicia, Spit’s dead-eyed sweetheart with a heart of full of hairspray. Everyone in the film earns their laughs… everyone.
IS IT ANY GOOD?: Hell yes. It’s been called the queer Napoleon Dynamite for a good reason — it’s surprisingly funny, has eye-popping dance moves, and cartoonish cringe-inducing characters. Set in the modern day, the film is shot in a colorful 1980’s palette with an energetic 8-bit Gameboy soundtrack that’ll make you smile. Plus the movie operates in a twisted world where breaking people’s noses with basketballs, mocking fellow students with black face, and imitating pregnancy at a talent show all go unpunished.
WHAT’S BAD ABOUT IT?: Spork’s meekness, poverty, and unkempt appearance already make her middle school mock-worthy; her hermaphroditism just adds another freak flag without ever becoming anything greater. The film wants her hermaphroditism to matter, only so they can say that it doesn’t matter — it ends up feeling like a gimmicky hook and a symbol for the ultimate “otherness” rather than growing into larger aesthetic or emotional idea. The film’s schtick also involves extreme send-ups of ethnic stereotypes including racist white valley girls who want nosejobs, stoic Asians who write fortune cookies, and a gang of booty-pooping, jive-talkin’ black girls. It’s “an equal opportunity offender” to be sure, but as the predictable plot begins dragging in the last act, the movie’s material seems less fresh than it thinks.
FUN FACT: Film reviewer Denise Castillón notes that, “LA-based actor and music video director JB Ghuman Jr. grew up in Miami Beach, Florida. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Ghubman pursued a career as artist in New York City, creating paint-on-canvas and installation art works. Understanding the filmmaker’s background gives insight into his film’s dreamlike quality with its rainbow-colored camera work mixed with hand drawn-looking animation. Ghubman’s nostalgic fondness for 80’s pop and early hip hop music, as well as the dancing styles and clothing trends they inspired, is more obvious.”
RATING: Four out of five Skittles – Spork’s hypercolor sweettart world is full of shock and awwww! It’s not groundbreaking, but the child-inspired art direction, dark humor, and GLEE-inspired dance numbers will keep you laughing in delighted disbelief.