The sequel/remake/revival Flatliners screams into theatres this Friday. While the horror genre and title may not suggest it, the film represents a sign of great progress for the queer community: it features an out-lesbian in the lead.
Ellen Page came out back in 2014 in a moving speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s “Time to Thrive” dinner. By that time, she had already achieved major stardom, starring in major blockbuster movies like Inception, the X-Men film series, and scoring an Oscar nomination in the indie hit Juno.
Page’s sexuality had become the subject of gossip around Hollywood, and her coming out helped to silence the rumors, and to raise awareness for other queer and queer-questioning youth.
It’s fitting that Page should take on the lead in the new Flatliners film. The original, which became a hit back in 1990, came from openly gay director Joel Schumacher (Yes, the guy who ruined the Batman movies.) Despite what his modern reputation may imply, Schumacher earned positive reviews for his direction, and Flatliners amassed a substantial cult following. The movie also helped springboard the careers of several unknown or up-and-coming stars, including Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Hope Davis and William Baldwin.
The plot of the original film follows a group of medical students that experiment with near-death experiences. The closer to death they actually come, the more visions of the afterlife they begin to have. As they continue their research, a malevolent force comes to haunt them.
The new film, which stars Page, will follow the same basic premise, and will feature Sutherland reprising his role from the original.
More importantly, the film marks a point where a major studio release can feature an out-queer lead — a feat once thought impossible. It helps, of course, that she has an incredible gift for drama. It helps too that the cult following of the original Flatliners has made the movie into a genre classic, which helps assure its box office success.
But in an era where straight actors like Matt Damon advise queer actors to stay in the closet, or where Rupert Everett grouses that being out ruined his career, when Page can headline a major film (and the Hollywood suits and general audience will not get hung up about her queerness) marks a happy moment indeed.
Even in a horror film about death-obsessed medical students.