If you think you know what you’re getting into with a “truth in advertising” title like Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, well, you’re probably right, especially if you expect a no-budget, eager-to-please, DIY film that sounds like a cross between Go Fish and an early Jim Jarmusch comedy by way of John Sayles’s The Brother from Another Planet. Madeleine Olnek’s debut feature, which borrows heavily from Dan Aykroyd’s Coneheads, lays all of those cards on the table right at the outset. Whether those cards represent ceaseless quirk, the can-do charm of a tight group of like-minded filmmakers, or abject horror will depend on the viewer.
The double opening introduces our two protagonists, who are, of course, destined to meet. Jane (the appealing Lisa Haas) confesses to her therapist that a recent UFO encounter seemed like a pickup from an extra terrestrial; untold light years away, an alien newscast (and unvarnished info dump) tells us that big emotions are destroying the ozone layer of a planet of bald-headed beings, and that, through some logical leaps of faith, a trio of lesbian aliens are dispatched to Earth in order to…I don’t know. They meet up with Earthbound lesbian singles in New York City, so I think we’re just supposed to accept that when the montage of disastrous blind dates begins, it has something to do with the continued survival of the aliens’ home planet. Olnek, who wrote as well as directed, seems to understand instinctively that, if the viewer cringes when the aliens first appear (garrulous, spastic, awkward, and loud), our response is, at least, mirrored in the faces of the Earthlings. Jane, who can’t seem to quit smiling, even under duress, is the only exception, and she finds a match in Zoinx (Susan Ziegler).
Olnek has a limited repertoire of jokes, so it’s fortunate that Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, at 76 minutes, is fairly amusing, even if it’s never quite laugh-out-loud funny. The movie is in its finest form when a gag is over before it has a chance to overstay its welcome; by contrast, when Zoinx dances with Jane for the first time, and her alien dance is revealed to be a jaw-dropping atrocity of jerky movements and the obliteration of personal space, you feel like the scene lasts 20 minutes when it’s really more like two. On the other hand, Olnek puts her faith in blackout-sketch-style cutting, checking in from time to time with a pair of government agents, discussing nothing while on what looks to be a stakeout, or—in an elaborate setup for the movie’s best joke—showing one of the aliens on a TV dating show.
You have to wonder how much care and preparation went into the making of a movie like Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, so that when you sense even the slightest hint of carelessness, you kind of resent it, regardless of how few demands the movie seems to make in terms of time and attention. On the other hand, you also want to feel charitable whenever the movie gets something right, unless those thoughts loop back, and you ask yourself why you’re setting the bar low just because a couple of friends got together and decided they’d make a film they could all kick back and laugh at, with chintzy sci-fi costumes and a spaceship that’s clearly a takeout plate filmed from the underside in close-up. (If there was a budget, it was split evenly between the SUV rental and dressing the set of the walk-in tent that serves as the spaceship’s interior.) Whatever the case may be, Olnek earns a fair amount of goodwill and doesn’t spend all of it in one place.