I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing

Polly (Sheila McCarthy), the organizationally impaired heroine of Canadian writer-director Patricia Rozema’s whimsical first feature (1987), gets a secretarial job at a chic Toronto art gallery and becomes infatuated with Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon), the sophisticated curator, while taking everyday photographs and indulging in eccentric daydreams in her spare time. Her rude encounters with the corruption and hypocrisy of Gabrielle’s world form the main substance of the story, which caters to middlebrow cultural insecurities even more doggedly than Woody Allen does. While it’s refreshing to find lesbian sensibilities represented honestly in a mainstream context (the performances are adept, and the conclusion is intriguingly open-ended), the cutesy style tries to promote the heroine’s dimwitted innocence in such anti-intellectual fashion that the movie’s self-righteousness may set your teeth on edge. The very title of the film, which misquotes a line from Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, is symptomatic of the pretensions in store. (JR)

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