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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Admit it: you clicked on this review because of that title, didn't you? It's okay - I understand completely. But before you go thinking that I've started reviewing porn, let me say that the new-to-DVD Itty Bitty Titty Committee is actually just the most recent film from Jamie Babbit, an independent filmmaker who also gave us The Quiet and But I'm a Cheerleader as well multiple episodes of TV's "Gilmore Girls."

The premise is quite simple. Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind) stars as Anna, a young woman who has just been dumped by her female lover. She works as a receptionist at a plastic surgery clinic where women come to have their bodies (particularly their breasts) enhanced. The flat-chested Anna harbors some of the same insecurities as the clientele: is she less attractive for not being big-busted?

Leaving work one night, Anna notices another young woman spray-painting feminist slogans on the building. She is Sadie (Nicole Vicius), the leading member of an underground female advocacy group called Clits In Action. (Subtle, yes?) Anna becomes infatuated with Sadie and soon joins the group as they use Fight Club-esque tactics to save Los Angeles from breast implants, sexual advertising, and stick-thin window mannequins. Their primary message is that all body types are beautiful despite what the male establishment wants women to believe. Eventually, the attraction between Anna and Sadie grows to undeniable proportions, but that is complicated by the fact that Sadie is technically in a relationship with Courtney (Melanie Mayron), an older woman whose feminist activism takes on a more traditional form. There seems to be more conflict than love between them, but Sadie is perpetually unable to break away.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee is part of the so-called movement dubbed "queer cinema," although I've never really bought into labels like that because a good movie can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of demographics. Nevertheless, it does feature a sensitive depiction of same-sex romances. There's an interesting dynamic between Anna and Sadie, and between Sadie and Courtney. You get the impression that Courtney - with her intelligence, experience, and sophisticated determination - unlocked a world of possibility in her younger partner's mind. Sadie may have decided to take more radical approaches in activism, yet you can feel how her reluctance to leave the relationship is driven by a profound respect. At the same time, Sadie serves a similar role to Anna, who is mixed-up and confused and in the C.I.A. finds a way to express things she's felt but never been able to verbalize. Sadie shows her how to stand up for what she believes in.

I really liked the way the movie handles these relationships. Babbit paces the film well, mixing the darkly humorous activism scenes with more tender character-driven moments. The performances are strong too. Melonie Diaz and Nicole Vicius are both understated and realistic in their roles. They create three-dimensional characters whose mutual journey it's easy to get caught up in and care about.

Regrettably, there's some very bad news: I was totally with Itty Bitty Titty Committee until its last act. I've seen many movies go off the rails in the home stretch, but never as badly as this. After 75 minutes of carefully establishing the characters and situations, the film comes up with the single most preposterous ending I've ever witnessed in a motion picture. The climactic act of rebellion pulled off by the women is so absurd, so patently impossible, that it took me out of the movie altogether. I'd even go so far as to call it insulting to the intelligence of the audience. We've been duped into believing that this is a human story - one about young women finding themselves and accepting themselves for who they are. Then we get the grand finale in which they do something that no one could ever in a million years do, and we realize that IBTC isn't really about its characters, but rather about trying to make some Grand Statement. It shouldn't have bothered. The human stuff was far more thoughtful and powerful than the ridiculous stunt we see at the end. The finale only serves to undermine everything that has come before it. What's worse is that we're expected to condone/admire their stunt which, underneath the sheer absurdness of it, basically amounts to an act of terrorism.

There is still much to admire here, but I can't give Itty Bitty Titty Committee a full endorsement. I spent much of its running time enjoying the characters and watching how their relationships unfolded, but I walked away furious that a movie would have the nerve to try to pull such an asinine stunt in its final act. My best advice: watch it for a little over an hour, then hit the stop button.

( 1/2 out of four)

Itty Bitty Titty Committee is unrated but contains adult language, sexuality, and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

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