Review by Sean Boelman
One would hope that society had progressed past the need for films that preach acceptance to cis straight (and usually white) men, but we still get a seemingly numerous amount year after year. Port Authority is yet another movie that means well, but ultimately serves an audience that already understands its message.
The film follows a 20-year-old from a small town in the Midwest who arrives in New York City and falls in love with a trans woman, opening his eyes to the LGBTQ community in a way that he had never known before. For a premise that had the potential to be really atrocious, writer-director Danielle Lessovitz handles it in a surprisingly tasteful way, even if it does pander a bit too often.
Lessovitz’s movie shows the most potential as an exploration of kiki ball culture, but more often than not, the scene serves as little more than a backdrop for the melodramatic plot. That said, there is other media which has explored the queer community more effectively than this in the past, making this an inessential addition to the canon of LGBTQ cinema.
Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that Lessovitz relies on the tired trope of a cis straight protagonist discovering themselves as a result of their interaction with a queer character. It’s the LGBTQ equivalent of the “Magical Negro” archetype, and it’s about time that we stop telling these stories through this lens.
Additionally, it’s frustrating that the trans character in the film has so little development. The dominant arc is the cis male protagonist’s, and even the romance is told from his perspective. As a result, anything that the movie has resembling authenticity goes out the window in favor of a contrived love story.
Fionn Whitehead tries his best to give a solid performance, but likely due to issues with the script and character, he too often feels like he is whining. On the other hand, trans actress Leyna Bloom gives an exceptional turn, nearly stealing the show from her male co-star even though she is held back by the writing.
The film is also very strong in a technical sense, implying that Lessovitz is much stronger as a writer than a director. The ballroom scenes, while not as bountiful in number as one would hope, are an absolute highlight, giving the movie a much-needed dose of added energy that helps it stand out despite the cheesiness.
Port Authority is a well-shot but unimpressively-written drama with a very basic approach to its themes. It definitely could have been a lot worse than it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are better films that do the same thing.
Port Authority is now in theaters and hits VOD on June 1.