Soldier's Girl (VHS, 2004)

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Soldier’s Girl, The Barry Winchell Story

May 2, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:actors, music, production

Cons:none

The Bottom Line: A must view movie


note: being based on a true story, anything I divulge in the review does not mean I’m giving away the story. The press already ran that gig.

Let’s play a game. You can answer out loud if ya want but I won’t be able to hear you. It’s one of those mind games - you know, I say a word and you say the first word it brings to mind. No fair pondering the answers, if ya take too long I’ll know you’re cheating. I may not be able to hear you, but I still get the vibes. O.K., here are the words:

Hot, black, love, Heaven, on, up, man, North.

Seems easy enough. The majority answers are: cold, white, hate, Hell, off, down, woman, South. Opposing forces, opposites. The rules of attraction exist, and so do the rules of consistent human behavior. The mindset of most humans joins certain words together, even though they mean the exact opposite.

Here’s another game, same deal. When I say: homo, fag, fairy. What do you think of? Some mincing little Nellie boy, wrists flopping and simpering about some boytoy that did him wrong, or do you think of a mean-green fighting machine, one of the U.S.’s finest, a member of the 101st Airborne out of Ft. Campbell? Uh huh, thought so. That Nellie boy got you every time, didn’t he? Preconceived notions, strange aren’t they?

Barry Winchell was no Nellie boy. He wasn’t Steven Seagal either. A gentle boy, compassionate, caring. He believed in fellowship with his Army buddies, he participated in the war games. He trained on and became proficient on some gun thingie (it sounded huge, like rapid fire or something), he was Soldier of the Month. He had a devoted family and, he thought, supportive friends in the military.

I could take this story two ways. I can either focus on the loving and caring relationship that Barry had with Calpernia, or I can devote the words to the destruction and death of Barry Winchell. Frankly, I picked this movie up because of the latter. Humans, by nature, are voyeuristic. Instead I discovered a powerful love story imbedded in the production and by the end of the film, realized that the love story was truly why the movie was made.

On the DVD extras, the key actors and director were interviewed. Director Frank Pierson admitted he shied away from this script because of fear, but he couldn’t erase the story from his mind. Weeks later he contacted them and said he would be proud to present the story of Barry Winchell. No virgin to controversy, Frank Pierson also directed the heady movie, Dirty Pictures , which depicted the story of artist and photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe.

And I can understand his fear. At first he couldn’t imagine how, in a made-for-TV movie, he could express the love between Winchell and Calpernia, especially the love making scenes. He wanted to treat those segments with delicacy but he still wanted to show the power of their love. He didn’t want the story remembered as two men scrogging, he wanted the story remembered as two people deeply in love. Barry and Calpernia never ‘scrogged’, they made love and there is a world of difference there.

And while we are at it, let’s talk about this male-male thing. There was no point in the movie, not once, when I did not consider Calpernia a woman. Or, as Barry referred to her, a lady. She was poised, elegant, regal at times. Her face was very effeminate, her actions were all woman, and her body was outstanding. Other than a slightly deeper voice that you would not associate with such a delicate lady, never does it cross your mind. In fact, I thought they had used a woman and dubbed in a male voice or a more alto female voice. Her voice wasn’t as harsh as some actresses I’ve heard, trust me. The make-up and prosthetic devices used on Lee Pace, to transform him into a woman, were outstanding.

Barry did not go into this blind, he knew from the giddy-up that Calpernia was transgendered. From their first tentative kiss, which he initiated, when he drew back in disgust, until their beautiful love affair, Barry was unsure of his own sexual desires. Calpernia, during the interview on the DVD, stated she wasn’t sure how Barry stood sexually, only that he was a loving and devoted person. His mother, also interviewed, said she neither thought Barry was gay nor straight, just a loving person.

Whatever, it doesn’t matter, and besides, you cannot and will not ever be able to put a label on love. When cupid comes tromping through, his arrows don’t have genders on them. How you decide to react defines how you decide to love.

Troy Garity played the part of Barry Winchell. When they showed pictures at the end of the movie of the real life Barry, Troy bore a remarkable likeness to him except he seemed a little older. During his interview session, he stated he went into this part with reverence, giving the life and death of Barry Winchell the dignity it deserved. Troy seemed very sensitive himself and it reflected throughout the movie.

As I stated, Lee Pace played Calpernia Addams. His interview reflected a great admiration for this woman and he wanted to portray her as the lady she was. He was playful, serene, and just a tad scampy. When they started his make-up the first time, he vetoed harsh eye shadows and multi-colors. He felt, and portrayed, Calpernia as a woman. He said she wasn’t a drag queen, far from it, she was a real woman who just happened to have some extra parts.

I found the interview with Calpernia Addams one of the most interesting. Although an accomplished entertainer, performing since before she can remember, she, or at the time, he, served as a field medical combat specialist in the Nary & Marines, known as one of the elite, combat-trained ‘Devil Docs’ during Desert Storm. He served in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arbia during Desert Storm/Shield, lived in the Aleutians on Adak Island, and was honored through Congress as one of the group that assisted a Chinese airliner on the Island of Shemya. In fact, Barry quipped that he was kinda ticked because she out-ranked him.

On the night that Barry was killed, Calpernia was crowned Miss Tennessee Entertainer of the Year. Because of peer pressure on base, Barry elected not to attend the performance. Life could have been different for a lot of people, but fate charts its own course.

She is also an accomplished writer with several books published, and designs video games. Since moving to California she had completed her gender transformation and the pictures of her are incredible. Quite a beautiful woman.

Predominately active in the movie, Shawn Hotsy, was roommate and fellow soldier, 25-year old Spc. Justin Fisher. As the instigator of the attack, Fisher was sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison for obstructing an investigation, lying to Army officials about his involvement and serving alcohol to a minor. In interview, Hotsy states he approached the part with some trepidation, realizing he would not be a favorite among viewers, but I felt he gave a brilliant performance.

Another favorite, Andre Braugher, as Sgt. Carlos Diaz, perhaps had some inner feelings about Winchell’s life off base, but saw more the solider and his accomplishments.

Finally, Philip Eddolls, as 17-year old Calvin Glover, the one that actually murdered Barry Winchell. Frankly, I take some issue with that, I felt Justin Fisher was more the murderer than Glover, even though Glover was the one that swung the bat. Sure, I know, we are all responsible for our own actions, but this naive and boisterous 17-year old, full of alcohol and bravado supplied by Fisher, would have probably never taken that fateful step on his own. Glover received life without parole. 17-years old - man.

Geez, I could write about this movie all day. The music was incredible - the songs chose. Even though the performers were only lip-synching, their actions and attitudes were outstanding. The final song, “Cold” by Annie Lennox, was just an unbeatable choice. As they switched back and forth between Calpernia’s performance to the song, and the attack on Barry at the same time, it brought chills.

Barry’s death was a tragedy but his life was full of love. I would hope that one would remember the love. According to ‘them’, the elusive ‘they’ people of the world, Barry Winchell’s death was the final ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ death in military history. Makes one wonder.

Soldier’s Girl was written by Ron Nyswaner who tackled a gem, Philadelphia , among other accomplishments

You owe it to yourself to see this movie, you owe it to Barry.


Thanks,
Susi

R-rating for subject content, violence, language and brief nudity.


Recommend this product? Yes

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