A 1985 film loosely based on Jane Rule's autobiographical 1964 novel Desert of the Heart. Directed by Donna Deitch.In 1959, Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver), a middle-aged English professor from New York City, comes to Reno, Nevada for a quickie divorce. There, she meets Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), a free-spirited young casino employee-cum-sculptress who is openly lesbian. Cay soon admits that she's strongly attracted to Vivian, who's shocked—especially as she gradually realizes that the feeling is mutual...Desert Hearts is regarded as a classic of queer cinema. It's one of the first films to portray a lesbian relationship positively, and its more-or-less Happy Ending pointedly contrasts with earlier movies about lesbians in which one of the women either dies or becomes heterosexual. Not surpringly, it has a strong LGBT Fanbase.
Desert Hearts contains examples of:
- The Casino: Where Cay and Silver work.
- Closet Key: Cay serves as this for Vivian.
- Coming-Out Story: Part of it involves Vivian coming out to herself.
- Creator Cameo: Donna Dietch appears briefly as a casino patron.
- Divorce in Reno: The reason Vivian goes to Nevada.
- Drives Like Crazy: In an Establishing Character Moment, Cay meets Vivian while they're both in convertibles headed in opposite directions. Cay doesn't let this bother her, though—she carries on a conversation with Vivian while driving down the road backwards.
- The Ghost: We never see Vivian's husband.
- Hair Contrast Duo: Vivian is prim and proper (and blonde), while Cay (brunette) is much bolder and uninhibited.
- Incompatible Orientation: Cay and her boss, Darrell. Also the reason why Vivian's marriage broke up, although it takes her a while to realize it.
- Maybe Ever After: When Vivian gets on the train back to New York, she convinces Cay to come with her—at least as far as the next station.
- Modest Orgasm: Cay and Vivian are (relatively) quiet during their sex scene.
- Reality Has No Soundtrack: The film has no background music, although period hits by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash (among others) are heard on radios.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cay is the red, Vivian is the blue.
- Uptight Loves Wild: Vivian is the uptight, Cay is the wild.