culture club

What to Watch: Gay teens in love, a time-slipping comedy and Sam Worthington’s dad bod

Heartstopper

Whatever your entertainment needs, we got your back (and hopefully your mind) with Queerty’s weekly “Culture Club” column with some of the highlights of new releases, streaming shows, classics worth revisiting, and what to drink while you watch.

The Must: Heartstopper

Alice Oseman’s popular graphic novel gets the series treatment, and in short, we’re smitten. Heartstopper follows the ordeal of Charlie (Joe Locke), a middle school student struggling with life as one of the few out-gay kids at his school. Charlie’s engaged in a clandestine affair with Ben (Sebastian Croft), a raging closet case who insists they hook up in dark corners of the school between classes. As the relationship begins to wear Charlie down, his gaze drifts to Nick (Kit Connor), a handsome new classmate that makes quite a splash on the rugby team.

Much like Love, Victor, Heartstopper concerns itself with the all-butterflies and giggles feelings of first love. This isn’t a story about sexual exploration. Rather, it’s a very sweet coming-of-age tale about a queer kid embracing his identity and learning to love himself as much as somebody else. It’s the kind of story that would have transfixed us as teenagers. As adults, we can’t help but love it too, though we recognize just how saccharine it gets at times. Fortunately, as grown-ups, we also have access to dental care. This show’s so sweet, it could give us cavities.

Streams on Netflix April 22.

The Stream: Russian Doll Season 2

Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett return for another go-round in Netflix’s ever-weird, ever-hilarious series. Not long after the death-defying (and repeating) events of Season 1, Nadia (Lyonne) finds herself transported 30 years into the past via subway train. Even more perplexing, the people she encounters seem to mistake her as someone else. Alan (Barnett) also experiences similar problems. Have they pulled a Quantum Leap? Or is something even weirder going on?

As with Season 1, we don’t want to give too much away here. Part of the joy of Russian Doll is figuring out just what the heck is going on as the story takes one bizarre twist after the next. The other great joy, of course, is watching two gifted performers—Barnett and Lyonne—serve up their own brand of bewildered comedy as they trudge along through their temporal predicament. In a world of formula entertainment, Russian Doll dares to take risks with its premise and plot. That it’s also damn funny almost feels like an afterthought.

Streams on Netflix.

The Legit: Little Women

Theatre fans starved for a night with the stage can get their fix with Little Women: The Musical, a filmed version of the West End show. Since Hollywood likes to revive this story every 15 years or so, and since English teachers all over the world love to assign Louisa May Alcott’s novel, we don’t feel the need to rehash too much of the plot here. Suffice it to say it’s about four sisters living in Massachusetts during the Civil War, all of whom wrestle with their ambitions for love, marriage, and careers.

Originally staged on Broadway in 2004, Little Women found itself overshadowed by the hijinks of Spamalot. With a book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland, the show tries its damnedest to reach the heights of other Americana musicals such as Sunday in the Park with George or Oklahoma. It never quite gets there, but game performances from the London cast make it pleasant to watch.

Streams on BroadwayHD April 21.

The Actioner: 9 Bullets

Game of Thrones siren Lena Headey headlines this lady-on-the-lam thriller about a former stripper turned child protector. In 9 Bullets, Heady plays Gypsy, a dancer who dreams of life as a writer. She also becomes the sole protector of Sam, a child cryptocurrency genius on the run from a murderous mobster (Sam Worthington, plus dad bod). Oh, and said mobster also happens to be Gypsy’s ex-boyfriend. By the time a shotgun-wielding (of all people) Barbara Hershey shows up, you know this movie is out-and-out bonkers.

It’s all preposterous of course, but then, that’s the point. Headey, an actress who has built a career on playing women in ridiculous plots, brings her usual mix of grit, beauty, and cunning to her role. It helps that director Gigi Gaston (who is queer) also relishes moments that allow her leading lady to look crazy glamorous and dangerous at the same time. 9 Bullets isn’t The Terminator, but it should satisfy lovers of the female action genre, and gives Heady an opportunity to shine. We’re always here for that.

In cinemas and available on-demand April 22.

The Spin: Paper Citizen “Goodbye”

Queer songwriter Paper Citizen debuts her latest sing this week, a gentle electropop tune devoted to love at first sight…and falling out of love moments later. Is such a thing even possible? We’re not sure, but Paper Citizen makes it feel possible. With a gentle voice and lyrics that recall the pondering of Amy Mann, Citizen has a style destined to thrive on the indie rock scene. Give this track a listen and you’ll know why.

Streams on SoundCloud.

The Jam: Alysia Kraft “Little River”

Speaking of queer songwriters, fans of folk-rock should check out Alysia Kraft’s latest tune, “Little River.” Reportedly inspired by a near-death experience, the song and accompanying video celebrate the healing power of music in a hostile world. Kraft’s use of guitar and vocals remind us of 90s-era Sheryl Crow, and kids, that’s never a bad thing. Give it a listen, as Kraft recommends, “with the music loud.”

Streams on YouTube.

The Exclusive: Jamie Hannah “Flowers”

Finally, gay pop crooner Jamie Hannah drops his latest single, Flowers, this week, and we here at Queerty have snagged a 24-hour exclusvie. The song finds Hannah in full introspective mode, as he meditates on the joy of love, pain of heartbreak, and how both inspire personal growth. In short, we’re smitten. No wonder Boy George called him “magical” and has become a devoted fan.

Streams on SoundCloud.

The Sip: Russian Doll

via Shutterstock

In honor of Season 2 of Russian Doll, we suggest this cherry vodka martini as a cocktail pairing. Sweet and fruity, it’s everything actual Russia is not at the moment.

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 oz. cherry juice
  • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 dashes cherry bitters
  • 2 dashes vanilla extract
  • espresso powder, for dusting

Mix vodka, cherry juice, simple syrup, bitters, and vanilla over ice. Stir. Strain into a cocktail glass. Dust with espresso power.