Circumstances of watching it: jack was able to come and stay with me for a few days, which meant that for once we had time to settled down with a DVD in the evening.
Verdict: Kinky Boots has a lot of heart but didn't quite work for me.
I went into Kinky Boots ready to care lots about whether Charlie could save his family business, and there were lots of lovely shots of semi-automated shoemaking and all the tropes you get in films where factory work is a bit miserable but if industries close down towns and communities die. I mean, 2005, the year of this film's release, is the year my mother's family (furniture manufacturing) business was sold to a faceless multinational, for all the usual reasons of quality goods being unable to compete with cheap mass produced stuff, and the fifth generation of descendants not really wanting to take over the family business. So I was already an easy sell, and then you add the culture clash between the Soho drag queen and the very gendered and conservative small-town manufacturing community.
The reason I didn't love KB was because the Joel Edgerton as the protagonist is just unbelievably annoying. I think it's not only Edgerton's acting, the whole script is such a mediocre white guy trope. Charlie just wanders around being kind of wet and pathetic and gets everything handed to him on a plate. He's the one who profits from everybody else's hard work and sacrifices and insights and talents, and the film takes this as completely normal because he's a handsome upper middle class white man. I hated the way his fiancée was set up as the bad guy because she dares to care about her own career as well as Charlie's family business and because she objects when Charlie does things like mortgaging their marital home without even mentioning this major financial upheaval to her. I hated that Charlie gets the girl, the spunky, feisty Lauren, just by existing and being posh and straight in her vicinity. There's no chemistry between them, indeed she seems to be more into Lola until that final clinch to cement Charlie's unearned triumph. There's even some dialogue about how it's not fair that pathetic unimaginative Charlie gets to own the factory while her name is only on his clocking in cards even though she is much more innovative and skilled than he is, but it just kind of peters out and they laugh nervously and then the rest of the film goes on to underline that this is the natural order of things.
And then Lola. Chiwetel Ejiofor is absolutely brilliant in the role, really vivid as the flamboyant, bitchy drag queen hiding a vulnerable interior. I didn't realize until the final credits that he actually sings most of Lola's songs himself; the quality of the music is really pretty great. The film makes it clear how incredibly brave it is for Lola to turn up in a really homophobic environment and win over all the factory workers who have never seen a black person, let alone a tall, muscular cross dresser, before. And yet Lola's reward is that she leaves her drag act in Soho and gets a job working for the pathetic, untalented Charlie, having saved his business and career. No romantic interest for Lola, not even much of the straight characters coming to accept her for who she is; she gets a kind of bare apology for some of the most outrageously homophobic comments, but she never really gets credit for putting herself at huge risk to save somebody else's business via her brilliant ideas.
Basically I really wanted the film to be about Lola, and instead she's a prop in the narrative of the most bland, uninteresting, everyman white guy character even Hollywood can imagine. There are a bunch of soliloquies about the nature of masculinity, which more or less conclude that a drag queen is too a real man, but they never get beyond superficial platitudes.
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