Feb 8, 2015

[Movies] The Boy in the Dress (2014)

This week's random LGBT movie didn't really turn out to be true LGBT in nature, but I figured it would still be nice to feature today. In this case, the titular character is a boy who enjoys wearing women's clothing (thus a transvestite), which ultimately has nothing to do with his gender identity. And a lot of people still make that mistake when it comes to cross-dressing.

The Boy in the Dress is a little more interesting for two reasons. First, the movie is actually based on a children's book that had been illustrated by Quentin Blake, who also did illustrations for many Roald Dahl books. The second quirk is that it's actually a TV movie, thus despite its potentially controversial content, it was still presented as family-friendly movie. And we're talking BBC One.

It's a pretty short movie given its running time of only 63 minutes. But given the original book is only about 242 pages or so, I suppose getting enough content for a full hour is pretty impressive on its own.

Synopsis: The Boy in the Dress is a 2014 family-oriented TV movie directed by Matt Lipsey. The screenplay was based on the children's book of the same name written by David Walliams, who is more famous for his work on the show Little Britain.

Our protagonist is young Dennis (Billy Kennedy), a 12 year old boy who lives with his 14 year old brother John (Oliver Barry-Brook) and their single father Peter (Steve Speirs). Their parents had divorced some years ago and now they live alone with their dad, who does his best to provide for them despite his lack of culinary skills. But Dennis is a pretty well-adjusted boy and is a key member of the school's football team.

Naturally he misses his mother and all he really has to help him remember her is a faded old photograph. When he sees a similar dress being worn by a model on the cover of Vogue, he decides to buy the magazine out of a sense of nostalgia. His father eventually finds the magazine and becomes furious about it as part of his efforts to raise him well in terms of his own standards. Eventually Dennis crosses paths with Lisa (Temi Orelaja), who is believed to be one of the prettiest and most fashionable girls at school. The two bond and Lisa manages to convince Dennis to satisfy his curiosity about wearing women's clothing.

So the story premise is rather strange and doesn't seem at all to be the sort of material that folks normally consider to be appropriate for children. But at the same time, the book is a daring statement on gender identity and presents how a boy can be perfectly heterosexual but still less than conventional interests like wearing women's clothing. This is not the dress-wearing resulting in a boy becoming more feminine or something along those lines - that's all crazy talk after all.

This is still a TV movie based on a children's book, so it suffers from the limitations of both the source material and the display medium. And while it certainly represented a lot of progress in the gender identity movement to a minimum degree, this isn't quite a fully LGBT story either.

Kennedy is a rather delightful young actor although he does come across a little shy when it comes to certain moments in the movie. If anything. his acting is rather genuine in tone and certainly does manage to convey a lot of the comedic drama in a manner that helps the  movie forward in a timely fashion. Despite the generally light tone to things, you can tell that he generally pushes things forward fairly well.

A lot of the other characters end up feeling somewhat like caricatures with little to no development. I suppose this isn't exactly entirely unexpected given it is a children's story, but even so I think there might have been an opportunity to flesh things out a bit since it is a TV experience.

Despite the limited duration of the movie, there were some bits that felt a little slow and could have benefited from different dialog or maybe even more story points brought into the writing as a whole. Maybe it's just a question of presentation values or the lack of strong supporting characters to help carry the movie through. Thus it feels more like a greater challenge with direction given the general mode of everyone always juggling topics while trying to get to the better bits a the end.

So The Boy in the Dress is a quaint little movie that is really just about a boy who finds that he likes t wear dresses and such mainly because he misses his mother. And even though he's not directly LGBT, these movies still help the community by helping dispel certain stereotypes about cross-dressing individuals that persist until today. Thus the movie itself gets a good 3.5 outfits that Dennis gets to put on out of a possible 5.


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