Like its 1996 predecessor, HBO's If These Walls Could Talk 2 (various dates in March) takes a high-concept approach--three stories set in one house in three decades--to a high-profile issue: in the first, abortion; here, lesbianism. (Walls 3 will no doubt treat health-care reform.) Like its forebear, this uneven but worthwhile film is less about sex than its aftermath. In "1961," Vanessa Redgrave, whose lover of 50 years has died, meets the woman's nephew, arrived to dispose of the house he's inherited and clueless about the lifestyle of his "maiden aunt." Redgrave deftly sketches the quiet hell of a woman unable to share her grief for her "friend" with the unwitting in-laws. A butch townie (Chloe Sevigny of Boys Don't Cry) in "1972" rattles her college-student lover's gay-feminist pals, for whom short hair means gender treachery, but the daring setup devolves into a pat Afterschool Special for lesbians.
The great celeb pairing in "2000" is not the much publicized union in bed of Sharon Stone (making amends for offending gays in Basic Instinct?) and executive producer Ellen DeGeneres. It's the reunion of lesbian DeGeneres and funny DeGeneres. This romp about lovers trying to conceive with purchased sperm well exploits her sorely missed deadpan delivery and timing--though Stone daffily and unconvincingly prances through it, and the two click with all the passion of someone forced to pet a snake. Still, you have to like a story that makes a turkey baster into a token of endearment, and if the lesson is that a lesbian love comedy can be as harmless as a straight one, there are worse ways to end a movie. Or start a decade.
--By J. P.