May 28th, 2021
MOVIE: PORT AUTHORITY
STARRING: FIONN WHITEHEAD, LEYNA BLOOM, MCCAUL LOMBARDI
DIRECTED BY: DANIELLE LESSOVITZ
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The topic in government and politics that continues to arise are conversations about transgender people. For some reason, people seem to be threatened, interested in their business, and afraid of their very existence. It’s something that I honestly don’t understand. I think letting people live their life, born the way they are, the way they want, is an easy way to be in the world. One of the positive sides for the Transgender community is that more entertainment, such as the FX show Pose, or Together Togher, or Laverne Cox’s performance in Promising Young Woman, all examples of how we continue to see new (although minor) steps taken in a right direction. Port Authority continues that momentum, with star Leyna Bloom, delivering a superb performance, in a sadly mediocre, and lacking drama. The themes are good, the acting is right, but Port Authority lost me along the way.
The focus of the narrative is on Paul (Fionn Whitehead), on probation and now arriving at the New York port authority looking for his step-sister. He can’t reach her phone and doesn’t even know if she will be there. It’s all a shot in the dark that leads to him asking for money from those who pass by. When he falls asleep on the train, he is jumped by two men, leaving him bruised, bloody, and without a dime. Lee (McCaul Lombardi) helps him clean up his cuts and he helps him find a homeless shelter to sleep at. He later hooks him up with a job on an eviction team, not much money, but removing people from their homes. It’s obvious Lee is a bigoted person, constantly using derogatory terms, and asserting his dominance over the group. During Paul’s time at the shelter, he notices and seeks out a woman in the neighborhood named Wye (Leyna Bloom). He watches her vogue dancing with friends and he makes his way to one of her various dance shows located near the shelter. Their eyes meet and in that connection Wye starts up a conversation.
What follows after is a conflicting romance, two people hiding secrets, both internally and personally about themselves. Paul is afraid to reveal that he’s homeless and afraid to reveal that he’s dating someone who even associates with people in the gay community. He’s lost, on probation, without family, but he’s found someone that he can connect to in Wye. For her there is the obvious stigma of being a transgender women. When that information is revealed to Paul, all he can think about is his fear of Lee and his buddies chastising him, a fear that reveals his inability to be himself. It’s a fear out of their bigotry, a fear out of a group of people that he’s mildly relied on, but knows that they are bad for him. For the majority of Port Authority, it’s the back and forth between kind romantic moments of Paul and Wye that succeeds. It’s the reality that they are two lost souls, living in opposite circles, pushing against the people surrounding them. Sadly, it should just be that only, not the other surrounding issues.
Port Authority is written and directed by Danielle Lessovitz and the general makeup of her film is strong. The cinematography by Jomo Fray has a cool similar look to other films shot on the streets of New York, such as Uncut Gems, Tramps, or 25th Hour. The story works well, but the problems with Port Authority feel like a matter of confidence. Where Leyna Bloom delivers a powerful performance, it’s surprisingly Whitehead that feels hesitant in his line delivery. Maybe more takes were needed, or a re-write to flush out the two characters to be deeper than just their outer selves. There’s a strong chemistry between the two, the look and feel is authentic, but there are obvious moments of wooden, stale theatrics. It drags down the narrative in-between the romantic parts.
It is the end of Port Authority that loses out on any good that was done before it. There are minor details in the story that never become addressed. I was never fully aware of how Paul was able to work with his shady outfit. There’s also a disconnect between the messaging in the end. The story feels like we should have been focused on the life of Wye instead of Paul. It’s even more frustrating when the fate of their relationship feels left breezing in the wind. Port Authority has the potential, it’s just not a finished product.
PORT AUTHORITY IS NOW PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady