Docurama // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 28th, 2003
Robert was born a female. Lola was born a male. Now they are falling in love...but time is running out.
Okay, see if you can follow this: Robert Eads is a 52-year old cowboy living in the South with a passion for hunting, cooking, and smoking pipes. Robert was also born a woman, was previously married to a man, and bore two children before "she" became a "he." Robert is in love with Lola Cola, a woman with an unending zeal for life. Lola is also known as John -- in other words, Lola is really a man. Southern Comfort documents the last year of Robert's life as it's slowly snuffed out by uterine/ovarian cancer. Along the way we meet Robert's son from his/her previous marriage; Robert's "adopted" son Maxwell (also once a female) and his transgender partner Cori; Robert's caring but disappointed parents; and many others who have shared in Robert's life. As filmmaker Kate Davis follows Robert and his friends through his final year, we see the joys and sorrows they face in a world that wants nothing to do with them.
Take Deliverance, Terms of Endearment, and The Jerry Springer Show, mash them together with The Real World, and you'll find yourself in the midst of Southern Comfort. I can guarantee that you won't see a more bizarre film this year (keep in mind this is ME making that statement). Southern Comfort is a documentary that must be seen to be believed. It is both a moving account of an unlikely love and a parade of the weirdest folks this side of the carnival tent. I say that without an ounce of judgment -- the fact is that this is a strange and lovable group of folks filmmaker Kate Davis has decided to document. As odd as it all may seem, Davis has constructed a film that attempts to shatter the prejudice around those who are different. These transsexuals are caring, warm folks who appear to have been given the royal shaft in life -- trailer parks, hostility, and declining health abound. Upon finding out about his cancer, Robert attempts to find a doctor who will help. The results are startling -- many refuse because they don't want to treat someone of his sexual nature. The outrage Robert and his friends display is understandable; they are not lepers, just people with a different sexuality. As Davis delved deeper and deeper into her subjects, I was both awestruck and sad -- no one wants to be an outcast. Here's hoping that this movie will make us think twice about judging those who don't stack up to our ideas of "normal." The moral of the story: Regardless of our differences in sexuality, we are all entitled to basic human dignity.
Southern Comfort is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. This documentary was filmed on digital video, so the source limitations are many. Many scenes appear dark and grainy while others are far too bright. These imperfections are to be expected with DV; in other words, this is the best the transfer is going to look. That being said, this is not a bad looking image if you can get used to the handheld camcorder feel. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English and is nothing spectacular. Some hiss and distortion pop up from time to time, but overall it's a fairly clear track. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Docudrama has added a few informative extra features on this disc. Starting out the supplements are two interviews, one with Lola (after Robert's death) discussing the film and her relationship with Robert, and a second by Cori and Maxwell discussing their relationship with Robert and what the film has meant to them. Next up are three deleted scenes that offer a little more insight into Robert and his thoughts on family, Maxwell and the medical process. Finally there is a moving text statement by director Kate Davis, crew biographies, and a list of the film's awards and honors.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Cast Interviews
* Filmmaker Statement
* Awards and Honors
* Crew Biographies