Ladies, gentlemen, and those who are yet to make up your mind…
I saw the poster for this movie at a bus stop around the time it first came out and thought it looked like a pretty good comedy. The other night I finally got around to watching the DVD and just as I hit ‘play’ I suddenly got really nervous that I’d made a mistake and it was going to be some horribly draining, gritty comedy exploring the seedy underbelly of a small English town. So I guess the first thing I should say is don’t worry, it’s definately not that.
Straight away I should mention that I’m not a huge fan of drag queens, since generally they either scare me or look a helluva lot better in a dress and heels than I do. Lola, the main drag queen in this film, would definately fall into the latter category. Played by the radiant Chiwetel Ejiofor, (from 2012 and Love Actually), the male protagonist (Charlie) meets Lola when he’s drunk in London one night and seeing a damsel in distress he defends her from being hassled by a group of thugs. He is knocked out in the scuffle and wakes up in Lola’s dressing room at her cabaret club and watches her remove her boots. Back home, the old-school shoe factory he’s just inherited from his father is outdated and in danger of closing, and Charlie’s firing people left, right, and center. One spunky (ex)employee tells Charlie he needs to find his niche market and so of course Charlie remembers Lola struggling into and out of her extremely high boots. And the rest, as they say, is history. Charlie and his motley band of employees must make over 10 new styles of stiletto drag queen boots, designed by Lola, and have 6 samples of each one to show at the Milan runway show in 3 months.
Came all this way for my advice? I feel like Oprah!
When she’s performing Lola makes the whole thing look effortless and her confidence seems only natural when she sweeps into the Northhampton shoe factory. She cracks jokes, pretends to flirt with a worker and addresses the whole factory. Something I wasn’t expecting was for her to come into work wearing lipstick, a large sweater, jeans, and no wig. I guess I thought that drag queens pretend to be women… but of course for most drag queens I guess it’s about the performance, and no one can perform all the time.
I thought the opening scene was lovely, a young girl in a school uniform waiting on a bench on the waterfront, then she guiltily pulls on some scarlet, strappy high heels and goes dancing and twirling over the boards of the pier. She loses herself until an angry old man raps on a window of a nearby building then comes out and says something like “come on, you stupid boy”. And you’re like “oh. She’s a boy.” Eventually Lola tells Charlie her tragic tale of how her father disowned her.
He wouldn’t talk to me. Even when he got lung cancer. So it’s ironic, really. Fags got him in the end.
Other than this brief teary moment the movie’s pretty much plain sailing. In fact it’s so… clean, it feels kind of naive in it’s approach to gender identity and the struggle of many transgender or crossdressing or whatever-ing people. But it’s a comedy, and it’s funny. In a gentle way.
Kinky boots is based on a true story, apparently, about a real shoe factory in English which “diversified” it’s range when facing job loses and possible closure. I did a quick search, but just found an X-rated site for fetish accessories, whose website is out of order. Darn, ay? But there’s no nastiness, no x-rated fetishes or sexual deviants in this movie. It’s light, fluffy comedy that takes it’s time (I felt the 2 hours) and like the poster said, it’s from the makers of Calendar Girls, which I really enjoyed, and I think the movies are comparable in pace and level of offensiveness. As long as you don’t mind dudes in dresses. I think it’s worth watching just for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance. Dude cracked me up. And it wasn’t like laughing at a guy in a dress, it was laughing with a person who has a really strong personality. And likes to wear boots.
Look to the heel, young man. The sex is in the heel.
Director: Julian Jarrold
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton, Sarah-Jane Potts
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