‘Happy Nows’ back again at OUT at the Movies
For the next installment in its ongoing screening series, Winston-Salem’s International LGBT Film Festival OUT at the Movies will present a special encore screening of the award-winning drama A Million Happy Nows, which was shown to great acclaim at last year’s festival.
“I knew after watching 10 minutes of the screener that it would be a hit at our festival, although I never imagined it would receive unanimous perfect scores from our audience,” said Rex Welton, the festival and series co-founder and director. “It was the runaway choice for the audience award for best narrative feature at our 2017 festival. It received unanimous ‘4’s from the audience – the first time we ever had a film receive all ‘4’s!”
The film stars Crystal Chappell as Lainey Allen, a much-beloved soap-opera star who opts not to renew her contract instead retire to the beach with her publicist and partner Eva Morales (Jessica Leccia). Eva begins to notice that Lainey is exhibiting strange behavior and signs of depression. A visit to her physician yields an unexpected diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, whose rapid progression throws Lainey and Eva’s relationship into turmoil, as they struggle to retain some semblance of dignity in the face of an uncertain future, hoping to enjoy what the life they’ve made together before time runs out.
Chappell and Leccia previously paired on the CBS daytime drama “The Guiding Light,” in which their characters – Chappell’s Olivia Spencer and Leccia’s Natalia Rivera – evolved from scheming, sworn enemies to passionate lovers, dubbed in some circles as a “same-sex super-couple” and hailed as a breakthrough in daytime drama. Chappell and Leccia have since collaborated on the soap-opera web series “Venice: The Series,” which Chappell co-created (premiered in 2009), and earned her two Daytime Emmy awards, as well as “The Grove,” a 2013 pilot for a proposed web series.
A Million Happy Nows marks the feature debut of director Albert Alarr, himself a Daytime Emmy-winning veteran of soap operas (including “Venice”), and executive producer/screenwriter Marisa Calin, who also appears in the film as Kate. She and Chappell are scheduled to attend the screening and reception at Jeffrey Adams (321 W. Fourth St., Winston-Salem) afterward.
At the 2017 FilmOut San Diego festival, A Million Happy Nows won the awards for Best First Narrative Feature, Best Actress (Chappell) and Best Supporting Actress (Leccia), and the audience award as Outstanding First Narrative Feature at Outfest Los Angeles.
Calin said there were multiple motivations for writing A Million Happy Nows. “The inspiration was the wonderful on-screen chemistry between Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia. I happened to see their celebrated pairing in ‘Guiding Light,’ and I felt that there were few more dramatic and nuanced performances in any for on screen. I was immediately inspired to explore the fascinating power dynamic they’d had the chance to develop, with new characters and the more intense format of a feature (film).”
In addition, Calin’s life – like so many – has been directly impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. “In my own life, my grandmothers had both been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I was experiencing the heartache of watching very strong matriarchal figures try not to show the cracks, even whilst losing the awareness of when that was happening,” she said. “That experience lent itself to a story that allowed Crystal and Jessica to explore the dynamic shift when someone so strong becomes compromised, and you discover that the quiet, steadfast love of their partner is maybe the strongest trait of all.
“The conflict of Alzheimer’s lies so much the understand of our own identity and how we can continue to exist beyond that,” she said. “My ultimate intention was to find the balance between drama and humor, a time-honored coping mechanism, and to make sure we are left filled with a sense that love prevails. The heart of the film has remained as I originally envisioned it. I wanted to explore vulnerability and love amid a loss of control.”
Much to Welton’s delight, “our 2018 series screenings have been the best in our nearly 15-year history. We have had a strong year, and great attendance so far with Rebels on Pointe, The Cakemaker and Ideal Home.”
What’s more, the festival’s appeal is growing beyond not just the Piedmont Triad, but the state of North Carolina. “We have sold advance tickets for A Million Happy Nows to folks from New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Tennessee, and are expecting another large audience on July 14.”
In addition to the screening and reception, the festival will also host a special brunch Sunday (11 a.m.-1 p.m.). Advance tickets are $35 and attendance is limited. Those who purchase advance tickets will be emailed the location to buyers upon confirmation.
The fifth annual OUT at the Movies International LGBT Film Festival is scheduled for Oct. 4-7. Sponsorships are available beginning at $100, and festival passes are already available for $75. All the details regarding the upcoming festival can be found at www.outatthemovieswinston.org.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2018, Mark Burger.
The OUT at the Movies screening of A Million Happy Nows will take place 7:30 pm July 14 at the ACE Exhibition Complex on the main campus of UNCSA School of Filmmaking, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $8 (advance) or $9 (at the door). For advance tickets or more information, call 336.918.0902 or visit the official OUT at the Movies website: www.outatthemovieswinston.org.