Last spring, I was in the Tribeca Film Festival Press Lounge when I looked up and gasped. Katie Holmes, the star of Batman Begins and former Mrs. Tom Cruise, had walked in for a photo shoot at the People/Entertainment Weekly studio next door. To me, Holmes will always be Joey Potter, the earnest leading lady from Dawson's Creek, one of my favorite TV shows (its gay creator Kevin Williamson, whom I worshipped in high school, had a lot to do with that). Once I recovered from my star-struckedness, I experienced another surprise: Holmes was excitedly greeting a trans actress I later learned was Eve Lindley, one of the stars of Katie's debut feature film All We Had.
I'm glad this chance encounter convinced me to see the movie. Not only is it a wonderful, engaging film, but Lindley’s character Peter Pam plays a big part in the story. Lindley’s talent — and the significance of an actual trans actress playing a trans character — cannot be overstated.
All We Had centers on a mother (Holmes) and daughter (the terrific Stefania Owen, of Krampus) who have hit rough times amidst the 2008 economic collapse. Holmes's Rita is always picking the wrong men, much to the chagrin of Owen's wise beyond her years Ruthie. The pair flees Rita's latest bad relationship and wind up at a diner run by Richard Kind and staffed unforgettably by sassy Peter Pam.
Holmes's directorial debut is remarkably assured — she's surrounded herself with a solid cast and crew. The cinematography is excellent; the unnecessary narration, less so. Holmes is quite good in her role; after getting derailed on the Tom Cruise crazy train, she now seems to be living up to the promise of Williamson, who once declared "There's an Oscar in Katie's future." Owen delivers a breakout performance as well.
But the movie belongs to Lindley, who is spirited and bracingly real as the defiantly outspoken Pam. There are wrenching moments involving her character — I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion. But ultimately Lindley’s performance and her role inspire hope and excitement rather than sorrow. It's about time.
Queerness: 5 — for Peter Pam!
All We Had opens Friday, December 9 in limited release and on demand.