Jun 21, 2013

[Movies] Kinky Boots (2005)

A number of years ago, I was surprised to see that this movie, Kinky Boots, was actually playing at the Greenbelt Cinemas. It was a film that no one had heard about and even fewer seemed to be talking about given how the story revolves around drag queens. Always one to support LGBT cinema in mainstream theaters, my partner at the time and I bought tickets and watched it.

We absolutely loved the movie.

Fast forward to 2013 and Kinky Boots is now a Tony-award winning musical having won many awards including Best Musical and Best Score for Cyndi Lauper. Thus in time for my on-going Pride Month goal of featuring sort of "mainstream" movies that celebrated LGBT themes, this movie had to make an appearance here. I know I had once written a review for this movie back in my Multiply days, but I can no longer find it. So here's me revisiting one of my favorite queer movies.


Synopsis: Kinky Boots is a 2005 comedy movie written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth as directed by Julian Jarrold. Chiwetel Ejiofor was nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical by the Hollywood Foreign Press, interestingly enough. And yes, this movie was inspired by a real story.

The movie follows the stories of two men - one is Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), a man who is struggling to save his family shoe business. The story begins after his father has died and thus the responsibility for the factory now falls to him. But business is terrible and they're on the brink of losing everything unless he cuts costs or finds a new way for them to make money. After all, closing the factory means a lot of people losing their jobs.

Charlie travels to London hoping to come up with a way to save the factory when he encounters Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) being accosted by several drunk men. He tries to intervene and gets knocked out in the process with Lola's boot the last thing he sees before losing consciousness. He eventually wakes up to discover that Lola is actually a drag queen (originally Simon). In the tussle one of Lola's shoes had been broken and Charlie determines the problem is that they're women's shoes and aren't built to support a man's frame. And this becomes his big idea - to have the factory design and manufacture shoes specially for drag queens.

The premise of the movie is weird enough to begin with - it has the same small town work pains as other British movies like The Full Monty but with the added sass of drag queens as well. And Ejofor is surprisingly amazing as a drag queen - he doesn't try too hard to be girlie. He has just enough sultriness in his portrayal to pull it off and remind folks that there's no hiding the fact that he's a man in a dress.

It's a little sad that the reviews for this movie were rather mixed and thus it didn't quite get the love it deserved - at least from my perspective. Sure, it's not exactly a laugh riot, but a lot of British comedies have this sort of subdued tone as well. But the Edgerton certainly did his best to portray the well-meaning but somewhat weak-willed Charlie who only really wanted to do the right thing.

The movie does have a bit of a slow start as we spend more time following Charlie around throughout things. The movie really gets into gear once Lola becomes more involved in the manufacturing process given drag queens are just fabulous that way. And yes, no movie featuring drag queen is complete without a healthy dose of brilliant lines like:

"Came all this way for my advice? I feel like Oprah!"

"Look to the heel, young man. The sex is in the heel."

There's a brilliant and rather lengthy tirade that goes on for a bit, but I know you'll be better off watching that particular scene for yourself.

The movie isn't 100% queer, I'll give it that. But at least it does try to help the audience put themselves in a drag queen's shoes for a moment and appreciate them for who and what they are instead of just seeing what appears to be "wrong" about them, which is really only different from what they're used to. And the movie has a brilliant finish - I still keep copies of those song tracks in my music collection just to relieve a few of the movie's best moments.

I admit that at this point I'm heavily biased for Kinky Boots, but perhaps if you gave the movie a chance, you might better understand what made me fall in love with it. And I expect more people will get around to watching it now that it has made a name for itself on Broadway. So I have no shame in rating this movie as a full 5 red leather boots out of a possible 5. I'll even throw in the little red riding crop.


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