Cloudburst stars Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis (Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Moonstruck in 1988) and Brenda Fricker (Best Actress in a Supporting Role for My Left Foot in 1990) as Stella and Dottie, a lesbian couple well beyond a certain age who embark on a road trip to Canada to get married.
Stella and Dottie have been committed to each other for more than 30 years. In that time, both have aged and Dottie has gone blind. So when Dottie falls off their bed and injures herself, her granddaughter Molly (Kristin Booth) puts her into a nursing home without consulting her or the woman who loved and cared for her for most of the time she has been alive — and then gives that woman notice to move out of Dottie’s house.
(It is at this point in the film and films like this where there are such forces coming against our protagonists, that you imagine different scenarios for a happy ending.)
The stubborn and spirited Stella puts up a valiant and hilarious fight — beating Molly’s cop husband Tommy (Michael McPhee) with his own hat and then jumping on his back, but to no avail. Interestingly, there were no tears on the part of Stella when Dottie gets taken away – just anger. I took notice of this because a lesser writer and director than Thom Fitzgerald would have gone for the tears instead.
Then in a scene that would make Lucy Ricardo proud, Stella cleverly breaks into Dottie’s nursing home and sneaks her out in the dark of night. Stella takes a hungry Dottie to a nearby diner – where she proposes marriage. They decide to go to Canada where it will actually be legal (this was about four years before the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in the United States). Along the way they pick up a handsome hitchhiker named Prentice (Ryan Doucette), who is trying to get back to Canada to see his dying mother.
To thwart authorities who are certain to be on the lookout for them, Stella has Prentice drive Dottie across the border ahead of her while she hitchhikes the rest of the way. She gets picked up by a conservative-looking gentleman of a certain age, but in what we’ve come to understand as typical Stella, offends him to the point that he pulls over and asks her to get out of his car. Once over the border, Dottie, knowing how Stella is, tells Prentice to go back across the border and retrieve her. But whereas Dottie and Prentice made it past the border guard with no trouble, Stella’s mouth gets her and Prentice into such trouble that he has to be stripped searched.
Once across the border, Stella and Dottie take Prentice to see his mother. Though she is very happy to see him, Prentice’s mother warns him about his father – who for some reason that isn’t explained in the film, is less than pleased to see his son. Stella and Dottie see this and where they were initially going to leave Prentice to spend time with his family, decide to take him back with them to Maine after they get married.
The day before they were set to get married, they all head to a bar where Prentice, who has realized that he has learned so much about love from watching Stella and Dottie together, makes one of the most amazing toasts ever put on film (not to overhype it).
That night, Stella realizes that she can no longer take care of Dottie by herself and reconsiders her proposal. She shares these feelings with Dottie the next day and in the film’s sweetest scene, Dottie tells her that she had convinced herself that she never wanted to get married because it wasn’t a possibility when they got together. Stella tells her that she had always wanted to marry Dottie. Then Dottie tells her that if she had asked, she would have said yes because she could never say no to Stella.
At the courthouse, just as they’re about to get married, Molly shows up with Tommy to interrupt the proceedings. It is discovered that she had committed fraud in terms of taking control of her grandmother’s estate, which gets her arrested. She and Dottie iron things out, but on their way back to the courthouse to get married, Dottie has what appears to be a heart attack. Still, she asks Prentice to marry her and Stella – even if unofficially – before they go to the hospital.
After 31 years, Stella and Dottie are finally married – even if for that one day. When Stella and Prentice are back in Maine looking at the same sky that Dottie saw even in blindness, she tells him that that one day was “the best fucking day of my life.”
Cloudburst is a beautiful love story that, even if it didn’t end as happily as I had hoped it would have earlier in the film, still ends happily because of the appreciation that Stella had for the time she had with Dottie.
Dukakis and Fricker are as wonderful in the film as you would expect two veteran and experienced actresses to be. You believe that these two women were a lesbian couple in a committed relationship. And any gays (or straights for that matter) who rebuff this film as just a lesbian drama are missing out on experiencing love portrayed on film that many of them wish they could experience in real life.
But if that is not enough, Doucette is really hot and we get two shots of his great ass – including one where he smacks it.