Photo: ‘Port Authority’/Momentum Pictures
‘Port Authority’ is a very interesting microcosmic glimpse at the larger social perception of LGBTQ+ representation and sensibility, today. While paying homage to gay and trans women, writer/director Danielle Lessovitz crafts a story of love between an unlikely pair and, simultaneously, an unnecessarily bleak portrait of those she chooses to represent. ‘Port Authority’ opts to focus largely on the white male lead and his inability to cope with homosexuality, a rather overused trope. A sad truth, especially, as the film is buoyed by a wonderful performance from Leyna Bloom, a transexual woman of color and former cover model and activist. She stars alongside Fionn Whitehead, of ‘Dunkirk’ fame, and the two very much carry the film, especially Bloom.
Aside from its relatively undocumented subject matter, ‘Port Authority’ also presents an interesting condition through its total lack of support from both the people who organized the film and audiences, alike. Only the most dedicated of cinephiles would be aware of this film, and that’s not a slight on audience awareness, at all. After debuting at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, ‘Port Authority’ would be delayed for two years and dropped into only seven theaters across the country in the closing months of the pandemic with a total of $11,000 in opening week revenue. This presents a unique moral dilemma —
Should we, as an audience, support a film based on its attempt to introduce needed representation even if the production company presents us with a whitewashed interpretation of that premise?
‘Port Authority’ – The Plot
Fionn Whitehead’s Paul arrives in New York’s Grand Central Station after being kicked out of his family home in Pennsylvania and bumps into Leyna Bloom’s Wye upon his arrival. Wye and her family are dancers and happened to be at Central Station performing when a chance encounter leads Paul to seek her out and pursue her, romantically. As the two grow interpersonally, details of their past lives come to the surface, with both characters’ history creating tension between the two.
In Paul’s case, he is a homophobic, insensitive, anger-prone straight-white male. As for Wye, her sexuality and quest for personal happiness lies in contrast to all of what Paul previously felt and believed. Paul goes on to get a job evicting black and brown people and begins bonding with his fellow macho-man coworkers which results in the exposure of his dueling lives when Wye meets his friends.
The narrative in ‘Port Authority’ is certainly anything but graceful. If anything, it promotes exploitative behavior and broadens the perverse nature of the white-male-centric social rights film. Not dissimilar to ‘Green Book,’ this film, although attempting something noble, ends up only further misrepresenting a healthy relationship between human beings in its most basic, moral sense. To pose our question from before, should audiences support a film that’s derived from a troublesome interpretation of its source material? More directly, actress Lenya Bloom. Although committing a wonderful performance to film and being one of the first transsexual women to ever appear within the medium, she will be largely forgotten, ignored, and slandered because of a poor studio interpretation.
If a film is substandard, it should be considered such, but should we lend some bonus points to those brave few who at least attempt something bold and honorable? Even though ‘Port Authority’ isn’t a great movie, Bloom does quite well and the premise, although troublesome, is worthy of respect, at the least.
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As mentioned previously, ‘Port Authority’ debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and subsequently was pulled from its release schedule and shelved, indefinitely. In the build-up to Cannes, there was a small marketing push for the film as actress Bloom did a number of high-profile interviews and the film was making headlines for its bold concept. What this tells me is that the critical response to the film at Cannes was less than stellar and, as a result, the company pulled the film, fearing the backlash of releasing an “offensive” movie. This is even more bizarre once doing a bit of research on the publicized responses and reviews of the film following Cannes; The Hollywood Reporter called the film “A tender depiction of the magnetic power of community” and gave the film a positive review.
This leads us to today, in the (hopefully) closing months of the pandemic as ‘Port Authority’ would be given its select theater distribution and a digital release to follow on June 1st. A perplexing idea, releasing a film sidelined for two years with zero marketing, essentially leaving it for dead. This is something I am not sure I can agree with. As I have mentioned, I have serious qualms with the film itself, but I do believe it deserves more than it received from its studio and distribution network.
This unscheduled release makes it appear as if the companies holding onto this film wanted it off their hands and released, a similar story to the untimely and widely hated ‘Chaos Walking.’ This overall sense of disregard for the health and reception of intellectual property lends me to be far more sympathetic to ‘Port Authority’ than I would have been had the film just hit screens when it was scheduled too.
Far from perfect, ‘Port Authority’ is a film that most will never hear of and never see, a sad truth for what could have had positive social effects on those it represents. Leyna Bloom is a sure-fire star, her energy, and ability to provide levity and soul to an otherwise soulless film speaks volumes to her talent. ‘Port Authority’ has undergone a very tumultuous and arduous journey to where it is today, and I feel genuinely upset by this fact. Done a tremendous disservice by its executives, this is a film that could have inspired conversation, growth, and love, rather than the sad reality that it has fallen to.
This leads me to a moral and professional dilemma I have personally never encountered before today. Film is supremely subjective, what one person loves another may hate, but I have always previously been able to call a spade a spade and a bad movie a bad movie. However, there is something extremely endearing about ‘Port Authority’ and, likely, its Leyna Bloom. This sympathy I feel for this film and the disservice it’s been done leads me to want to champion it, although I understand its narrative is somewhat vexatious.
And this leads us directly to where we are now. You, reader, if this is something you feel may be interesting and worthwhile, please watch this film. If not, pay it no mind. But hopefully, by putting pen to paper with respect to ‘Port Authority’ may lead to a wider discourse about the film and its subject matter, and that I believe was the purpose of the film itself.
Cast & Crew:
Director/Writer: Danielle Lessovitz
Producer: Martin Scorsese
Cinematographer: Jomo Fray
By Tyler Sear
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Tyler Sear is an athlete and writer with a philosophical perspective to film. With aspirations to direct feature length films, Tyler brings a critical eye and philosophic approach to film, striving to give unbiased opinions while campaigning for equality and impartiality in Hollywood, today. This sense of morality makes Tyler uniquely qualified to address timely issues and recent releases within film. By tackling interesting topics, Tyler aligns with Hollywood Insider’s intentional mission to ignore sensationalized rumor and strive to present factual and entertaining content.