Culture / Media

Queer-View Mirror: Concussion

Concussion, a Rose Troche (Go Fish, L-Word, Six Feet Under) film that debuted at Sundance last year and won a GLAAD Media Award this past weekend, follows the story of Abby Abelman (Robin Weigert, Deadwood, The Good German), a 40-something lesbian living with her workaholic, divorce-lawyer wife, Kate, and their two kids in a New Jersey suburb. The spark has gone from their relationship and while Kate seems content with celibacy, Abby hungers for something more. After a blow to the head with her son’s baseball, she begins a somewhat frantic search for passion and for the part of herself she sacrificed long ago for domesticity, falling into a gig as a high-class call girl.

Talk about a plotline we can all relate to.

Okay, maybe not the bit about becoming a prostitute. But anyone in mid-life who is married with kids, with or without minivan, can identify with the crisis of self that occurs when you realize that later is now, and when you look in the mirror and see, staring back with haggard eyes, a tired, cranky, carpool-driving, laundry-folding, child-scolding soccer mom or dad—in short a hideous domesticated ghost of your former rockin’ self. Or worse still, your own mother.



This seismic shift in identity is, despite its hugeness, insidious. We don’t see it as it happens—we’re too f—ing busy. Like Abby, the lost protagonist in Concussion, we have to be literally hit on the head. “Abby is so starved. She didn’t even know she was hungry,” Director Stacie Passon explained in a recent interview. “The concussion in some ways knocks that loose in her.”

An interior designer before her transition to full-time mom, Abby goes back to work, renovating a loft in Manhattan. The studio

becomes another sort of office space after her contractor (Johnathan Tchaikovsky), whose girlfriend runs a call-girl business out of her dorm room, hooks her up with a professional. She then decides to join the world’s oldest profession, reinventing herself as “Eleanor” and servicing a variety of clients.

It sounds like the premise for a good porn flick. But Passon’s script is incredibly tasteful, subtle, and the clients Eleanor services are not young, nubile models, but real-life women, including a sweet, overweight college student who has never been kissed and an aggressive older woman who provides an unwanted mirror for our chronically confused heroine. Weigert gives an extraordinary performance as Abby, whom we route for, even though we may disapprove of her choices. Her journey is so compelling precisely because it’s clear she has little idea why she she’s doing what she’s doing, nor does she have any idea where it will lead—yet she is driven to proceed. We can’t help but want to see what happens next.

One of the most fascinating things about Concussion is its universality. In spite of the healthy amount of lesbian sex involved, the



sexual orientation of the characters is very much beside the point. Replace Abby’s wife with a husband and substitute female johns for male and you’d have a very similar movie. It is partly for that reason that North Jersey Pride chose Concussion for our Pride Week annual movie night on June 5th. Pride Week is not only about celebrating diversity, but about recognizing how similar we truly are—and recognizing how insane it is that in 33 states we still can’t marry legally and in 29 states we can still legally be fired for being gay.

Passon’s escape from suburban malaise artfully mixes fantasy with reality, taking midlife crisis to an extreme. In the end, we’re not quite sure what we’ve witnessed or how much of it was real—but we know we can definitely relate.





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