Review: “The Facts of Life”‘s Mindy Cohn was Born to Play the “Fruit Fly” at the Center of “Violet Tendencies”


Mindy Cohn in Violet Tendencies

Why does it go without saying that former The Facts of Life star Mindy Cohn, who played Natalie, was born to play the self-described “oldest living fag hag” at the center of the new romantic comedy Violet Tendencies, out this month on DVD?  

Maybe it’s the fact that she got all the good jokes on that old sitcom, but fewer storylines than the other cast members. Or maybe it was her impish, irreverent air.

I’m not sure why, but you know it’s true, don’t you?

And sure enough, Cohn is terrific in the role of Violet, an aging New York fruit fly whose gay friends are all settling down, even as she struggles to find a single straight man who (a) isn’t a total freak and (b) is interested in her.

After a while, she even starts to wonder if maybe her gay friends are sabotaging her efforts at finding true love, in order to keep her in her place as the ever-supportive second fiddle and proverbial Life of the Party. Hey, she’s even willing to suffer almost complete humiliation, waiting patiently behind a potted tree while one of her gay friends gets a hand-job from another guy.

On the “Frisky Friends” phone-dating line she haunts, Violet eventually finds a seemingly-decent guy, Vern. Could he be that elusive “unicorn” — a straight man who is also interested in Violet’s gay friends and her very gay sensibilities?

Alas, the inconsistent movie around her just doesn’t measure up to Cohn’s considerable talents. Violet Tendencies also tells the story of Violet’s various gay friends, including a gay man (Samuel Whitten) considering fatherhood with his partner (played by the movie’s director, Casper Andreas); another couple (Adrian Armas and Jesse Archer, the latter of whom is also the movie’s screenwriter) having relationship troubles; and an HIV-positive go-go boy (Marcus Patrick) struggling to make it as a fine artist.

The boys are pretty, but the acting is spotty and the storytelling is weak. Even Violet’s story, which is by far the most successful, veers from (too) broad farce to complete deus ex machina.


Jesse Archer, Samuel Whitten, Casper Andreas

The movie can’t even decide which story it’s telling: are
Violet’s gay friends limiting and humiliating her — or are they a source
of her strength? It’s not the the movie is saying, “It’s complicated.”
It’s that it’s saying literally exactly opposite things at different
points.

There’s a heartbreaking (but also funny) “blind date” scene in the film where
Violet is forced to confront the fact that, yes, she shares too much. But like Violet, the movie shares too much too, with a fair bit of scatological humor that I mostly didn’t think worked.

Still, fruit flies have too long been objects of ridicule, stereotype, and pity, even in gay-themed projects. I appreciated that here Violet has more than her share of dignity (even if she is sometimes also the butt of jokes).

In other words, Cohn finally has a project where she gets all the good jokes and she gets the best storyline.

With your expectations low, Cohn’s noteworthy performance might make this one a Netflix-er.

The trailer for Violet Tendencies

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