It’s Pat (1994)
It’s Pat is a tender gender bender
Over the past decade, there have been several high profile films that have tackled the issue of people dealing with gender issues.
In 1999, Hilary Swank starred in the film Boys Don’t Cry, which told the tale of a young lady who preferred to live life as a male. Rather than undergoing the costly and painful surgery, known as an adadictome, to become a man, the character simply posed as one. Swank captured the Oscar for Best Actress that year.
Six years later, Felicity Huffman portrayed Bree, a pre-operative male to female transsexual in Transamerica. Huffman’s performance earned her an Oscar nomination.
While film critics and support groups have praised these two films and several others for their handling of a sensitive issue, there was one film that truly blazed a trail, and influenced all gender bending films that have come after it. I am referring of course to the 1994 film It’s Pat.
Pat was a re-occurring character in the early 1990s on “Saturday Night Live”, played by Julia Sweeney. Audiences were in stitches each week as the other characters in Pat’s sketches would try to determine if Pat was in fact a man or a woman. Based on the huge success of the Wayne’s World movies, it seemed like a natural idea to turn Pat into “SNL’s” next big screen franchise. The result was box office gold.
Well, not quite gold. Not bronze either. Maybe not even aluminum. What would $60,822 be considered? Maybe box office cotton.
Perhaps the film was too far ahead of its time. Moviegoers at that time were more interested in films about dinosaur theme parks and singing nuns. They weren’t interested in films that dealt with serious issues. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its share of lighter moments. Take this exchange between Pat, his/her neighbour Kyle, and his/her boy/girlfriend Chris, after Pat has fallen down a flight of stairs:
Kyle: “Are you all right… um… um… you there?”
Chris: “Yeah, hon. Did you break anything?”
Pat: “Oh, I crushed my nuts!”
Kyle: “Ooooh, that’s got to hurt!”
Pat: “Oh, shoot!” [holding up crushed walnuts]
Pat: “There goes my afternoon snack!”
That’s high comedy indeed. I’ll understand if you need to take some time to compose yourself before you continue to read the article.
Sweeney is brilliant as the sexless Pat Riley. Sweeney realizes that she didn’t have to make the character of Pat to be likeable, just interesting. That’s exactly what Pat is. He/she is annoying, arrogant and oblivious to the feelings of others around him/her. Pat is fascinating to watch however, and it is a travesty that Sweeney was not awarded with an Oscar nod.
The scenes where Pat becomes a rock star, and gains super powers are welcome additions and help raise It’s Pat into a higher class from other gender issue themed films that I mentioned above.
The film is not without its flaws, however. There are a few goofs in the film that I am quite surprised were not caught during the post-production process. At the beginning of the film, Pat’s mother is told she has given birth to a seven-and-a-half pound….baby. Later in the film, Pat’s birth certificate shows a birth weight of eight pounds, two ounces.
A far more glaring error is that Pat’s equally androgynous partner Chris is played by Dave Foley (“Kids in the Hall”) in the opening half of the film, and portrayed by a German Shepherd in the later stages of the film. This is a major oversight that would have been unforgivable if every other aspect of the film had not been so stellar.
It’s Pat is a truly remarkable cinematic achievement. Whether you’re a man, woman, robot, leprechaun or all of the above, I guarantee you will love this film. Order it from your favourite DVD retailer – there are loads of copies left.