I Watched Lesbian Classic “Go Fish” For The First Time And Wow WTF Is This Movie

Last time I watched a lesbian classic for the first time I expressed that I would from then on be a broken person for having watched it. Some people were upset. This was a movie that came out (nice) at a time when queer media wasn’t as accessible as it is now, and seeing a story that looked like theirs at a time when they needed it most be taken to task was hurtful. The truth, though, was that the movie was bad.

It was important I move on to another lesbian classic.

Go Fish is the 1994 film about a group of lady loving ladies just trying to get by in a heteronormative patriarchal society. Written by Guinevere Turner and Rose Troche – names I won’t soon forget –  this movie was really the first film made by, for, and starring modern queer women, so I’d imagine there are many of you that have those same strong feelings you had about the last film about this film. Protective ones. Sympathetic ones. Ride or die ones.

And so it is with a heavy heart that I say that this might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.


Our movie begins with a group sitting around talking about lesbians that have existed throughout history, which almost 30 years later is still how a lot of our conversations start. Lily Tomlin. Audre Lorde. Someone suggests the entire cast of Roseanne, and in many ways John Goodman is a lesbian. One woman boldly proclaims Eve, a fictional character from the bible, is a lesbian, and even for the most veteran of “everyone is gay” that’s a reach. “Why are we making this list?” someone asks on screen and it cues a jackpot chime rollout in my brain.

Not only is this movie in black and white, but it’s got the kokopelli meets Keith Haring transitional graphics to usher this thing into peak 90s cafe culture. Also, before I go any further I do feel it’s important for you to know that this movie sounds like it was recorded from across the room in an airplane hanger.


Oh, look, it’s the lady from The L Word who always wore a white blouse tucked into some boot cut pants and who is the writer of this movie, Guinevere Turner! Her character’s name is Max and Max wears a backwards hat.

Max is a writer. We know she’s a writer because it’s all in the syntax. It’s got a rhythm like this. It helps to hear it aloud. Like in narration. The narration plays over a scene of Max writing. That’s also how you know she’s a writer. Max has a roommate. Her name is Kia. Kia’s girlfriend stayed the night.

Suddenly there’s a shot of a woman in a kitchen drinking hot tea out of glass without a handle, so you know something’s off.

We’re back at Kia and Max’s place and Kia reminds her girlfriend, Evy, to call her mom. When Evy gets on the line she begins talking into the phone without remembering to pause for the “person on the other line” and is hilariously trying to driving the story without a single regard for everyday rhythms in conversation. Into the receiver like, “Hello mom yes I hear you and will remember to do that thing as your daughter who knows what’s at stake here.”

Now we’re at the coffee shop with Kia and Max and they’re talking about “sex as in fucking” not sex as in “having slept with.” Wow, these women love keeping it real when it comes to intercourse. Then they start ranking people around them based on attractiveness, which feels rude. Max starts singing the “U-G-L-Y” song about a woman in a booth next to them and this is so problematic that the screen fades to black with no explanation. I wish that’s what happened in real life.

It turns out Kia knows Ely, the woman that Max has just called ugly and the woman from earlier who drinks hot tea out of glass with her bare hands. Ely has a girlfriend in Seattle and is definitely nailing this acting thing.

Later on Max arrives at Ely’s front doorstep to learn that Kia has set them up on a surprise date. Even though all three of them have just had a conversation about Ely’s girlfriend and Max is apparently repulsed by Ely? Thanks, Kia! At Ely’s we’re introduced to Daria, Ely’s roommate, who stands in the doorway and says with the charm and human warmth of a free text to speech language translator, “Hi, Max, looking cute as usual.”

Max and Ely decide to go see a movie even though where a spark between two people should be there’s a giant sigh. When they get back to Ely’s house they have a stilted conversation about how the world rests on queer filmmakers shoulders to represent an entire culture, which feels suspiciously like these filmmakers are asking the audience to forgive them not even 30 minutes into their own movie.

Without explanation and after too long a conversation about tea (honestly what’s the tea thing), Max and Ely start making out on the couch despite zero chemistry and Ely’s monogamous relationship. Also do remember that very recently Max was literally chanting “ugly” in Ely’s general direction. Sure. Why not. Now the camera is just doing a loop-de-do around their crotch areas.

Now Ely’s getting a haircut so she can look edgier and it sounds like MC Skat Kat, the jazzy cartoon cat from Paula Abdul’s music videos, has scored the scene.

Then we’re b-rolling into a scene where Daria has sex with a man. And ah, here it is, the classic “I had sex with a man” lucid dream where all your queer friends question the validity of your lesbianism. A lot of points are being brought up here. Bisexuality. Quality over quantity? Sex as a vehicle for orgasms. Sex not as a vehicle for orgasms? Sex for fun. Lesbians who sleep with men.

This movie feels like someone took acid and filmed their friends on a T-Mobile Sidekick.

Cut to a montage of women in wedding gowns where there’s spoken word narration about heterosexual marriage being echoed by a whisper narration and I sort of want to cry. You know that part of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Willy Wonka takes everyone down that tunnel and the overstimulation of everything is too much? That’s this movie.

Now we’ve got some soundscapes easing us into a scene where Daria is having sex with a woman on a bed, and on that same bed a cat sits so close to their bodies it might even be touching them. Here’s the thing: I 100% know someone’s doing this very thing right now like it’s a nonissue and I want to die.

Ely is making dinner mere feet away in the open floor-planned apartment, and it slowly becomes clear to me that the shots of Daria and her date’s love making and the shots of Ely’s food preparations are meant to parallel each other. Something I did not expect from watching this movie was that bread would be forever ruined for me, but here we are.

The sex keeps going. Then Daria’s date turns her head and looks directly at Ely. The camera turns to Ely and she’s like, “Huh?”

Then there’s a shot of a tea kettle whistling from the kitchen, which is supposed to represent the orgasm happening to a woman who basically has a cat on her chest, but really it should be a shot of someone picking up a phone and hearing a dial tone, because that’s the amount of fervor to this sex.


The next day Ely and Daria decide to throw a party at their place, probably to wipe clean the memory of the night before. Max shows up in her Sunday Best– her backwards hat and jorts. One woman has exactly one bang that cascades down her face. Now they’re playing Never Have I Ever, a game that was unfortunately lost to the sands of time, never to be heard from again.

A spinning top on a checker board keeps transitioning scenes, which makes about as much sense as this entire movie.

Now Max and Ely talk on the phone all the time because they kissed at the party. Chemistry off the charts. Aaaaand now we’re literally experiencing in real time two people’s boring phone conversations that no one on earth finds interesting besides the two parties involved.

Cut to a lesbian scrapbook music montage of Max and Eli getting ready for a date. Then Ely shows up early at Max’s place and Max is still in her robe. As they small talk on the couch Max takes Ely’s hands and says, “Oh, look at your nails,” as if to say, “Oh, look at your NAILS.”

Ely registers this about 30 seconds later and calls into the bathroom where Max has just returned to, “Hey, do you have any clippers?” In this first date scenario I think it would have been perfectly fine for Max to call back, “Sure, just one second!” and then quietly exit through the bathroom window, but instead Max brings Ely a set of clippers knowing full well what’s about to happen.

As Ely cut her nails on Max’s couch, I feel a sense of loss. Of what is unclear. What is clear is that Ely hasn’t set up a game plan for the clipping situation, not a receptacle or tissue in sight, and so nails are going every which way. Max returns to the couch in her robe and begins cutting Ely’s nails for her.

Then, naturally, they start to make out. The nail clipping inspired makeout turns into sex on the same couch where pieces of Ely’s nails surely coat the surface and I think, “There are all kinds of people in this world, aren’t there?”

Alright, it’s the next morning and Ely is doing the happy sex dance down the street on the way back to her place! Good for her!

Max stays snuggled up on her nail couch while she relives the dream that was the night before as Kia and Evy listen on, which means we also get to relive it in flashbacks. Please end this movie. Help me. What have I done to either of you, Guinevere Turner and Rose Troche?

Okay, the movie ends, and honestly I don’t even care that it ended in the middle of a conversation. As the credits roll there are gratuitous shots of women having sex, and I’m assuming this is supposed to be a reward for having made it through the movie.

Because there is nothing good about this movie. The acting. The dialogue. The airplane hanger audio. The camera work. The words “nookie” and “ho” were used. Typically in movies, there’s also conflict and a plot. The entire experience feels like when someone’s telling you a story but realize pretty quickly into that it’s bad and just keep going anyway.

When I finished this movie I felt a deep, still sadness. It grew from a small sadness tumbleweed that picked up everything in its path as it took a wild ride down a hill and turned into a heavy mound, taking one last rotation before finding its final resting place on level ground.

Have I ever made a movie, you’re asking yourself? No, I haven’t, and so maybe this isn’t fair. But I have had terrible ideas, like a remake of Hope Floats but as a 10 second short of a girl face down in the water, and I’ve chosen not to release them into the world in a public way, until now, where I’ve done it quietly at the bottom of a post everyone has surely stopped reading.

Goodnight and may god have mercy on our souls.


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Writer by way of GA/PDX/MPLS/NASHVILLE. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 136 articles for us.

95 Comments

  1. I laughed out load all the way to the end of this, pretty funny! Makes me wonder what you’re opinion is on “when night is falling”, in my opinion the lesbian version of “the room”. I honestly had to go through the credits to make sure Tommy Wiseau had nothing to do with it

  2. i saw this when it came out and because it was a lesbian movie made by someone who was my age peer we flocked to it. i haven’t watched it since. but this review made my day. you have no idea…hope floats – love it!

    • Yes, same! I was living in Northampton at the time and remember the anticipation of waiting in a long line at a theater with a bunch of queer women to see it. It was super exciting at the time because any queer content in a movie was reason for excitement so my memories of it (I haven’t seen it since then) have a certain level of fondness due to nostalgia.

  3. I’m dyinggggg 😂😂😂 I just asked my mid-30s wife if she’d seen Go Fish, back in her heyday. Her reply?

    Her: Yes.
    Me: Was it good?
    Her: …. No… You know why they called it Go Fish? It was, fishing for answers.. But coming up short… Look, it was all we had!

    Then she proceeds to praise Better than Chocolate 😆 True to form.

  4. OMG.

    I have very tender feelings for this movie and yes, you’re right, it’s totally ridiculous.

    fwiw, Ely running through the streets post-coitus with a dopey blissed-out expression with a too-big shirt on is sort of a fond memory for me.

    Also, they show up in Watermelon Woman singing karaoke badly! I have wondered to myself if they had a flicker of involvement in the young lesbian film making world and then dropped out and they’ve been quietly living as a paralegal or something while the world turns unaware of their brief but meaningful flicker of fame. I’m so CURIOUS if that’s true, the last time I wondered this out loud they did not exist on any social media platform.

  5. Lord this movie was awful. We went on opening night, giddy with excitement. Not even my whole group stayed through the entire flick. I, alas, did. And so I thank you for subjecting yourself to it again so I can laugh at the terrible, terrible memory.

  6. Haha, that sounds terrible.
    I just recently saw the Handmaiden, which I absolutely loved, and got me thinking.. Why can’t there be more movies like this..the story,cinematography etc filmmaking of the handmaiden I thought was amazing and it centered female romance with some truly sexy scenes.. and yeah the lack of representation makes me really sad because I can’t think of any other movie that’s like this..correct me if I’m wrong..but a girl on girl movie that actually has a good story and the filmmaking is well done..As someone who has studied filmmaking I’m way more critical..I don’t wanna watch a shitty movie just for representations sake.. I’ve only ever enjoyed 3 girl on girl movies.. I thought Fucking Amal was actual good filmmaking and Blue is the warmest color also..anyone has any recommendations for smthng I could enjoy?

  7. Erin. Please continue your reviews of bad lesbian movies I’m so glad I never watched because I thought I was straight in the 90s. They are glorious and fulfilling. May I suggest another movie to review?

    Desperate Remedies. This New Zealand masterpiece stars Lisa Chappell of McLeod’s Daughters fame. It is… sort of a period piece? It watches like a bad acid trip. I own a copy on VHS and will gladly donate it for science/entertainment.

    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0106709/

  8. Saw this at the lesbian & gay film festival in NYC in 1994. I just remember being confused as hell for most of it.

    There was another lesbian movie at that festival we really liked, that no one’s heard of because it’s in German: Alles Wird Gut (Everything Will Be Fine). If you could find it and review it I would greatly appreciate it.

    I still love Better Than Chocolate, I always will, but yeah, parts of it were just ridiculous. (“Why is she standing in the store window? Naked?”) But it was what we had. And it had a trans lesbian in it, which was enough for me.

  9. And so it is with a heavy heart that I say that this might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen

    Dear, sweet, innocent Erin, this film wouldn’t even make it into my top ten of awful lesbian films. I fear you must travel deeper into the abyss…

  10. LOL! My girlfriend, now wife, and I went to see Go Fish in the theater when it opened. It was rough, but as many have said, it was all we had. Thanks for the trip down memory lane… sitting near the front of the theater holding my girlfriend’s hand hoping and no one will see as I try to sneak a kiss on our way out of the movie. We’ve come a long way.

  11. Hahahahaha

    Nice

    Gotta love Guinevere Turner, though, she was really trying to do something Important no matter how much she had to force it!! GenXers, man, so fucking earnest and self aware. It’s like that SNL skit where they have a high school theater troupe doing weird topical skits that make no sense in the end.

    Have you seen When Night is Falling? If not, then I vote for you to watch that one next. That is sure to produce solid comedy for you.

  12. Erin, thanks for reviewing this movie. I saw it at the time in the nineties when it was all the lesbian culture had. Max was a bitch, whoever thought that her character being a bitch was cute lived in a very small bubble. A bubble as small and distant as this movie.
    I felt sorry for Ely, she could have somehow decided after having onetime sex with Max that the world was a bigger place and found some real friends who liked her for her and thought she was perfect.No. Instead she feels empowered sleeping with the local lesbian snake. Identifying with a captor is a thing.

    There was so.much.hype. for this movie, so many awards and positive reviews, maybe Guinevere Turner paid the critics to talk it up. This movie even after your very careful observant critique and retelling makes no. sense. at. all. So thank you, for writing a funny satire of it. Your review is the best thing about this movie. Please review more.

  13. This movie is a perfect representation of what we would suffer through just because it involved lesbians. It really is a bad movie. When I was in high school all seniors had to participate in making a film. Either as individuals or small groups. Every single one of them was better than this movie.

  14. Ohhhh this movie. God.

    I watched this in a friend’s living room while drinking wine that tasted like Snapple. Thank you for bringing back the full sensory memory of that.

    I was in college when this came out, and every lesbian ever would 1. ask if you’d seen it, and 2. tell you it was the worst thing ever. Which, of course, it was.

    But these were the dark ages, and literally the only other lesbian movie in the entire world was Claire of the Moon, which was so bad that the friends who showed it to me kept explaining WHY it was actually good WHILE we were watching it EVEN THOUGH I was just quietly watching.

    Also, that hair that’s just a cascade of bangs was one of the Essential Lesbian Haircuts back in 94. I know. Just as inexplicable as this movie.

  15. Opinions about this movie may be generational. The movie is so ’80s – younger boomers remember people like this. It’s also reminiscent of Dykes to Watch Out For cartoons. I, 30 years older than the average reader at this site, think that the movie is hilarious. Millenials should find it to be deadly boring. Technically, the film screams – can’t afford color film, can’t afford decent (not outdated and cut-rate) B&W film, can’t afford re-takes, have only one or two lights for the entire shoot, and the cinematographer and rest of tech staff are doing their first movie.

    • I was only 22 when this movie arrived.
      I grew up in a very conservative Ireland, with only two TV stations. There was almost no queer representation in any programming. If there was any queer character it was only for comic relief. Not anyone capable or deserving of love or a stable relationship.

      This movie was the most attended screening at my home town film festival. It was poached… Poached! From the Gay + Lesbian fringe festival which has always played second fiddle in terms of funding from the arts council to secure venues and events.

      Clearly the team behind the film had no budget, little technical no-how and maybe too many issues thrown into the script.
      But they went for it.

      It’s not perfect.
      But it was ours.

    • For this old person who saw a glut of indie film in the 90s, you nailed it. Also, in the manner of Slacker, it looked like something we could go out right then and make, which was exciting and encouraging. In return for its gritty realness, we were willing to suspend our disbelief with plot and logic and stuff. The whole “slice of life – every detail of the moment” filmmaking style got a lot less appealing when reality TV took over the airwaves.

  16. I watched this when I was a closeted baby gay and it was the first movie about lesbians I had ever seen, so I tried to convince myself I liked it because LESBIAN! MOVIE! When that didn’t work, I tried to convince myself that it was OK for its time, because LESBIAN! MOVIE! When THAT didn’t work, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t hate it, because…*sigh*

    But yeah, no. This movie is the worst.

  17. Have you done Claire of the Moon yet? Soooo bad, I can’t even. Thanks for the memories and a few good belly laughs. Hey back then we were so starved for any representation AT ALL we took whatever we got!

  18. This is the movie where they kept saying “honey pot” but there was no espionage going on? I remember seeing this film around the time it came out and having positive feelings toward it. My positive feelings toward art/media in 1994 were completely detached from the art’s objective quality. Sad? Maybe. Helpful when most of your friends are artists/actors? Very.

    I remember a scene where the ladies were lying on the floor with their heads together and the camera was shooting just their faces. And even in 1994 I knew that was a cheap-ass technique.

    Still, shit was hard then and no one had phones in their pockets. So when you think of all the hours we wasted trying to get in touch with each other, it’s amazing anything got done at all.

  19. I’ve been a reader of this site forever, but I finally had to create an account because of this review (awesome job, Erin!) As an Old, I saw this back in the day when it was basically this and Desert Hearts and that one movie where Mariel Hemingway runs track. I was SOOOOO excited for this, and I soooooo did not like it. The best thing I can say about Go Fish is, during the screening, there was somebody behind me who was also laughing inappropriately through the whole thing, and we ended up striking up a conversation afterwards, and we’re still best friends to this day.

    Thankfully, High Art was right around the corner. The 90s weren’t all bad!

  20. This review made me happy. I’m just repeating what a bunch of other commenters said, but I’ll do it because I can!
    I was 22 years old when I saw this movie in the theater and remember that it was flawed. However, it was so undeniably thrilling to see the relationships kind of normalized and treated with humor that I loved it anyway. I couldn’t help it!
    Reading your review made me happy because it signals such a change in the culture. I haven’t seen the movie since the mid 90’s and I trust your impressions are correct. Mostly, it’s so cool that you don’t have to love it just because it’s the only time you’ve seen women’s relationships treated that way on screen.
    I kind of want to watch it again, just to see what it makes me feel. On the other hand, it may just lead to destroying whatever romantic idea I had in my head about it. Anyway, thanks! I enjoyed thinking about it.

  21. While I understand the review to be mostly tongue in cheek I have to say I wholeheartedly disagree with the negative take. Its unpolished dialogue and peering camerawork made it seem more documentary than drama, and I think it gave such a textured view into lesbian friendship and love (of all stripes: see Daria’s Shane-ness, Max and Ely’s tentative foray and Kia and Evy’s long-term relationship). The lack of flourish around Max and Ely seems unsatisfying at first glance, but I’d argue that championing the awkwardness and even mundanity of attraction is the whole point – I think many of us relate to the experience of the slowly growing attraction more so than that of being struck by Cupid’s bow, as most romantic films (lesbian or otherwise) would have us believe. The depiction of Max’s friends openly conspiring to set her up also hits quite close to home.

    Was the acting subpar? Yes. Were the visual metaphors a little over the top? Probably. But, reluctant as I am to be counterfactual, I think had I come of age in the nineties, I would’ve been inspired and hopeful for things to come.

    Plus, who hasn’t had an ernest conversation about hypothetically lesbian historical figures? That was pretty dead on.

  22. In the early 2000s I recommended a movie to a couple and they both simultaneously asked, “Did you like Go Fish?” When I said I hadn’t seen it they squinted at me with distrust and said they didn’t take lesbian movie recommendations from anyone who liked Go Fish. I knew I had to watch it so I could become a credible lesbian film buff.

    I love these reviews so hard. Can’t believe I missed this one!

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