While LGBTQ representation in film has improved greatly over the past couple decades, there’s still a dearth of genre films about LGBTQ characters. So 1996’s Bound, written and directed by the Wachowskis very early in their careers, is particularly significant. It would be hyperbolic to call it a perfect movie, because it’s not, but it holds up remarkably well and it’s really hard not to love a lesbian noir thriller where the lesbians are the protagonists.
Bound stars Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as Corky and Violet. Corky is an ex-con working as a plumber and painter in an apartment building. Violet is a former exotic dancer and the unhappy girlfriend of Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), a mobster who lives in the building. In classic femme fatale fashion, Violet seduces Corky and the two scheme to steal mob money from Caesar and run off together. A lesser movie might have reduced Violet to nothing more than a treacherous femme fatale; indeed, characters like Violet mostly show up in fiction to be the downfall of a man who’s at the center of the story. But while Violet is poised to be Caesar’s downfall, he’s not the focus of the movie. A lesser movie would have sensationalized the lesbian relationship. Instead, the two women are portrayed as intelligent and tough. We’re meant to root for them, and their relationship, even when it’s not always clear who can be trusted. Also impressive is the commitment to authenticity. Corky and Violet don’t feel like sensationalized, male gaze versions of lesbians, and little details are added to add to the realism (like Corky having a labrys tattoo). This is less surprising in retrospect as both Lana and Lilly Wachowski have both come out as trans women, but it’s still really impressive for 1996.
But also impressive is that the movie has a genuinely suspenseful, intriguing plot. It stands well on its own as a noir thriller. This doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but as someone who has 1) watched a lot of bad LGBTQ movies and 2) watched a lot of bad thrillers, I think Bound deserves any recognition it gets.