“HONEYGLUE”— Morgan and Jordan

“Honeyglue” Morgan and Jordan Amos Lassen “Honeyglue” is the story of a dying girl, Morgan (Adriana Mather), with a gender-bending writer, Jordan (Zach Villa), who has a penchant for wearing skirts, burgundy-colored lipstick, and noting thoughts about honeybees. The film begins as a wigged-out Jordan flirts with Morgan at a club only to receive a barrage of uncalled-for questions: “Are you a boy or a girl?” and “Are you gay? It’s okay if you are.”
Writer-director James Bird quickly takes us away from the strangeness of a dance floor where anything seems possible to a suburban American home where Morgan lives with her parents and brother who are openly transphobic. A large part of the film is spent on
Jordan’s gender fluidity. I wonder if the idea was to pit  Morgan’s terminal condition against Jordan’s queerness as mirroring metaphors, but they seem to belong to completely different films.   The look of cancer here becomes a demystified look as the film is more interested in borrowing cancer as a narrative shorthand for intensity rather than investigating terminal cancer as a lived experience. We also have a subplot about violent Hispanic thugs being on Jordan’s case for money that he owes them.  In one scene,
Morgan and Jordan are having a drink at a pub; she wears a Chaplin-like hat and moustache and he has on a jet-black wig and for a moment, we see two people embodying a concept without having to spell it out. It’s a fascinating image that requires nothing to support itself.
Telling the story of Morgan (Adriana Mather), a dying girl with three months to live, who falls in love with Jordan (Zach Villa), a gender-bending ex-junkie, “Honeyglue” makes repeated stabs at breaking down the gender binary, but it cancels itself in many cases. One minute, Morgan and Jordan are robbing convenience stores and contemplating suicide, the next they’re trading romantic thoughts on the beach. Bird’s interest in subverting society’s norms around gender and sexuality seems genuine enough, he goes about it in a maudlin fashion.
The actors give the film life along the way. Jordan is an extremely tricky role, an only-in-the-movies runaway with good skin and perfect hair, but Villa somehow manages to turn him into a credible human being. Mather is saddled with the dying-girl part, the kind of role that usually requires a lot of coughing and sad looks, but Mather really elevates it, giving a beautifully nuanced performance, resilient and quirky without becoming cloying. The duo forms a surprisingly potent chemistry that really shines in scenes where Bird puts down his pen and lets the two interact physically. This is the rare film where the best scene may actually be a nudity-free sex scene. Morgan and Jordan, both wearing female undergarments almost merge into a single person. 
Director Bird repeatedly returns to an overwrought children’s story about dragonflies and honeybees written by Jordan. The insect metaphor is overdone here. Neither Jordan nor Morgan seem to have friends.
It seems that Bird’s goal is to discard the deeply held notions about gender and sexuality so if the film helps make issues surrounding gender normativity accessible, then it has done a great job.

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