Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Watch us on Youtube Join the Archive Mailing List Read our Blog

UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation present

Something Special (Willy/Milly)

Something Special (Willy/Milly)
October 5, 2019 - 7:30 pm
Q&A with LGBTQ film historian Jenni Olson, filmmaker Rhys Ernst.

Outfest members receive free admission at the box office!

This screening will be introduced by LGBTQ film historian and Outfest UCLA Legacy Project advisory board member Jenni Olson, and followed by a conversation between Olson and trans filmmaker Rhys Ernst (Adam, Transparent).

Something Special (Willy/Milly)  (1986)

With an astounding plot premise offering unique pleasures for contemporary viewers, Something Special (aka Willy/Milly) is a whimsical 1986 teen comedy about a teenage girl who wants to be a boy... and, thanks to a magical eclipse powder, actually gets her wish. Picture an ABC Afterschool Special with a queer sensibility. After she wishes for her "deepest, darkest heart's desire," Milly Niceman (Pamela Adlon) wakes up in the middle of the night to discover she's grown "a guy's thing down there." When their parents insist they must now choose between being a boy or being a girl, they wisely quip, "Can't I be both?" As Muddy Waters sings "Mannish Boy" on the soundtrack, Milly becomes Willy and begins to learn what it means to be a boy: his previously platonic girlfriend develops a new kind of interest in him, and so does Willy's new pal Alfie (Eric Gurry—as a boy with a disability who refers to his wheelchair as a lunar module). When Alfie confesses his shame about his "unnatural desires” for Willy (confused about how he has suddenly gone gay), Willy confesses his female-born past and decides he wants to be a girl again. Although the film ultimately doesn't allow for either the gay or transgender option, it plays extensively on homoerotic potentials, and has a blast with gender identity. Patty Duke gives an outstanding performance as Mrs. Niceman, and Pamela Adlon (formerly Seagall) is uncannily butch and boyish as Willy (and as Milly). Briefly released in 1986, Something Special quickly disappeared from view and has been virtually unseen since. Also featuring Seth Green, Corey Parker and JD Cullum.

Print courtesy of Jenni Olson. 35mm, color, 93 min. Director: Paul Schneider. Screenwriter: Walter Carbone, Carla Reuben. Cast: Pamela Adlon, Eric Gurry, Mary Tanner.