Bisexual Heartbreak In “Cora Bora”
Also, My Kingdom For A Black Queer Couple
This piece is part of the NewFest 2023 coverage here on “I Care About…”
1I’ve said it before and now I’m saying it again — Making your relationship open is not a cure-all for the problems you’re having in it. Queer people seem to think that and it almost always does not work out well. Communication starts to suck, OPEN UP! Sex life starts to take a turn, OPEN UP! And in the case of Cora Bora, turning your relationship into a long-distance one because one of you leaves to further your career — OPEN UP!
That’s actually only a dash of the plot of the very queer film starring Megan Stalter as Cora and Jojo T. Gibbs as her girlfriend Justine. Cora is a musician who decided to pack up and leave Portland to move to Los Angeles to further her career. She left behind her dog and her girlfriend but before she does, they decide to open their relationship. After her move, things aren’t going as great as they could be for Cora.
She isn’t doing a lot of shows, her management isn’t really pushing for her, and she misses her girlfriend. She does the thing a lot of us do though — pretend that nothing is going wrong so the folks we love don’t worry. Their relationship starts to deteriorate and Cora is very much not going to let that happen — SHE IS GONNA WIN BACK HER GIRL! When she gets back to Portland though, the task at hand is harder than she thought it would be.
We learn that Cora didn’t just move to jump-start her career, she is running away from herself. I’ve learned that running away from your problems will not just worsen them, but it will no doubt create new ones. As the film goes on it feels like she gets hit with a decade’s worth of life lessons in 24 hours. Cora’s emotions run wild (Vivian Green’s Emotional Rollercoaster? Anyone — Bueller?) but they aren’t necessarily all over the place. I feel like she was always trying to get people to meet her where she’s at, but I can understand how that can come off as selfish without the proper communication behind the ask.
Megan’s performance was great, she landed the vibe of a messy twenty-something on a road to self-discovery that she didn’t ask to be on. I was worried at the top of the film because I’m so used to her playing the role of the unfiltered and unaware quirky girl. About 20 minutes in I could feel the layers coming and Megan’s performance followed right along with them. Yes, it’s a story about a messy girl trying to control the one thing in her life she thinks she can at the time — her relationship — but the story is far more heart-centered than just that pseudo superficial layer. Megan does a beautiful job at portraying someone who is grappling with past trauma and going through current heartbreak, all while craving a light and promising future.
My only major issue with the film is Jojo’s character, Justine. I kinda didn’t dig that she kept being romantically linked to non-Black folks, it’s just a trope in queer films & TV that I’m so over seeing — along with the one where the Black character gets her first Black girlfriend and treats her with far less grace and care then she would a white woman. It makes me feel like it’s a continuation of film and tv pushing the narrative that Black queers just simply don’t date other black queers, and that being with a Black woman must be SO DIFFICULT, even in the world of reality TV this happening! Also, if you live in Portland please tell me — are there only like four Black queer women there? ‘Cos Shrill also made it seem like there was only a handful and I just wanna know because I really love facts and figures.
I may have had an issue with who Justine dates but Jojo kills it in the role of the girlfriend who has put herself in an awkward position. On a side note, she also looks incredible. It’s really nice to see that the hair, makeup, and wardrobe team on a film that has a mostly white cast, still kept the Black folks on camera a priority. Seems small but it’s a very big deal!
The queer connections in this film run pretty deep. Writer & Executive Producer Rhianon Jones was also a producer on Shiva Baby (with Rachel Sennott who stars in the queerleading film Bottoms with Ayo Edebiri) and As They Slept (with Maya Hawke who plays a queer babe in Do Revenge and Stranger Things, and Rachel Hilson who was in Love, Victor). One of the dope things I learned while researching the film is that Rhianon has a production company — Neon Heart Productions. It has a focus not only on female filmmakers and their stories, but she believes that more times than not, lots of first-time films can be made for around $50,000. There are great queer films by some unknown writers just sitting in Final Draft because of the money they have been told it costs to make them. I love knowing that folks who are putting money behind queer films like Cora Bora being made have this mentality.
I already dug the film, but after talking to Megan and hearing how excited she was to tell a queer story like this on such a big level it made me love it even more. Queer stories — even those that are messy — are important to tell. What better way to push this narrative than by watching a story about a bisexual babe who is searching for healing in all the wrong places.
This piece was originally published on Autostraddle.com as part of my 2023 SXSW Coverage where I also interviewed Meg Stalter. It was removed at my request following the Autostraddle acquisition and my sudden removal as Culture Editor.