February 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm EST | by Brian T. Carney
Love with a twist
Boy Meets Girl, gay news, Washington Blade

Robby (Michael Welch) and Ricky (Michelle Hendley) in ‘Boy Meets Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Murphy PR)

“Boy Meets Girl” is a groundbreaking romantic comedy and a remarkable sign of the times.

The story centers on Ricky and Robby, two young adults who have been best friends since they were kids. There is of course a twist. Ricky was raised as a boy, but is now living as a girl. Robby has been very supportive, but there are some powerful undiscussed feelings lurking beneath the surface.

Ricky works as a waitress at the local diner in their small Kentucky town, but she really wants to move to New York and become a fashion designer. Her designs are quite good and she produces a popular vlog with the help of her younger brother, Sam. Horndog Robby works as a mechanic for Ricky’s father.

Things get complicated when Ricky meets beautiful, blonde Francesca, who’s home from boarding school. Sparks fly when Francesca tries to order a fancy coffee drink and Ricky says they just serve coffee. The two quickly become friends and the heat rises when Ricky reveals (via text) that she is a “transgender girl.”

From there, the plot spins out in an interesting fashion. There is some violence and a few dark secrets that get revealed, but there are no deaths and there are lots of happy endings; remarkable and refreshing for a movie that features a transgender character.

The movie, which opens Friday at the Angelica Pop-Up at Union Market (550 Penn St., N.E.) is anchored in an assured performance by Michelle Hendley, who is herself transgender, and who is making her film debut. Hendley’s breakout turn has already won her awards at several indie film festivals. She brings both a hardened worldliness and a winsome innocence to the role. Ricky has faced down the haters in her small town and dealt with intense personal loss; now she needs to find the courage to let herself fall in love and to follow her artistic dreams. It’s an amazing role and Hendley shines in it.

Newcomer Hendley gets great support from Michael Welch (Robby), Alexandra Turshen (Francesca) and Michael Galante (David). Welch, well-known for his appearances in the “Twilight” movies and his role in TV’s “Joan of Arcadia,” is charming as Ricky’s loyal best friend. He’s part womanizing good-ole boy and part heroic ally, a potent and delightful combination. Turshen fleshes out her femme fatale role quite nicely, making Francesca a free-thinking independent woman and not just a free-wheeling rich kid on a spree. Galante brings the necessary menace to his role as the sometimes villain.

The cast is rounded out with strong performances from Joseph Ricci as Ricky’s cute little brother and Randall Newsome as her compassionate father, as well as Elizabeth Ward Land and Christopher McHale as Francesca’s fiercely protective and supportive parents.

Writer, director and producer Eric Schaeffer (not to be confused with Signature Theatre’s Eric D. Schaeffer) is known for an amazing variety of projects. The multi-hyphenated New York-based artist (he has worked as cab driver, writer, director, producer and actor) has extensive credits in both television and film. His movies include “My Life’s in Turnaround” (1994) and its 2011 sequel “They’re Out Of Business,” as well as the hit romantic comedy “If Lucy Fell” (1996) and “Never Again” (2001).

Schaeffer’s pioneering script for “Boy Meets Girl” is both robust and delicate. It easily captures the natural rhythms of contemporary speech (with a delightfully earthy Southern twang) while it raises intimate issues with great clarity and sensitivity. The sex talk is frank and the discussion of Ricky’s transition is informative without being exploitative. The conversations between the young lovers are both sexy and sex-positive, leavened with a rich sense of humor.

Schaeffer’s work as director is equally confident. He elicits nuanced performances from his talented cast. The pacing is strong and fluid and the narrative and visual transitions are smooth and clear. He is ably assisted by the evocative score by composer Matthew Puckett and the camera work of Violetta D’Agata and Andrew Ravani.

“Boy Meets Girl” is the perfect Valentine’s Day movie this year. Whether it’s date night or a first date, you’ll leave the theater with a warm romantic glow and plenty to think about on the way home.

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