Criticism

Girls Will Be Girls

girls-will-be-girls

Anyone dumb enough to go to a movie starring drag queens hoping to find a first-rate story or award-winning dramatic performances deserves whatever disappointment he or she is certain to experience. Sure, there are the occasional pathos-infused drag flicks (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and, to a degree, The Birdcage), but most drag comedies – and dramas, for that matter – tend to be delicate, insubstantial things.

The rare hits in this highly specialized subcategory are inevitably infused with the sugary sarcasm, saccharine satire and bitter aftertaste so essential to the cross-dressing sensibility. (They also hinge on the talents of queens involved; Patrick Swayze or Philip Seymour Hoffman in a dress just won’t cut it.) So it is with Girls Will Be Girls, a feature-length comedy that barely has enough “plot” (and that’s using the term verrrrrrrry loosely) to flesh out a short film, but nevertheless elicits enough good-natured groans and gut-busting guffaws to keep viewers hooked from start to finish.

A series of vignettes (with titles like “A Girl’s Gotta Eat,” “All About Evie,” and “The One-Eyed Monster”) tailor-made to fit the exceptional talents of its three leading “ladies” – Evie Harris (Jack Plotnick), Miss Coco Peru (Clinton Leupp), and Varla Jean Merman (Jeff Roberson) – GWBG is, in a rudimentary sort of way, about three Hollywood actresses “at various places on the Hollywood food chain.” Evie, a long-faded B-movie bombshell, resents the unbridled ambition she sees in the dim-witted but youthful Varla (“I’m going to hang out every afternoon at Schwab’s Drug Store – that’s how they discovered Tina Turner!”). Meanwhile, Coco longs to marry, have babies, and leave Tinseltown behind for good.

It all adds up to a frightfully fractured fairy tale, one where All About Eve and Valley of the Dolls hilariously collide with Peyton Place and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. As with Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven, Girls Will Be Girls doesn’t so much parody the earnest melodramas of the late ‘60s as much as it emulates them. Sets, costume, dialogue and delivery, all are nailed with unnerving, dead-on precision. Even better, unlike the recent Down With Love, the three stars play their wildly over-the-top characters completely straight, as it were; there’s no winking at the camera here.

There are only three or four comic premises in the whole film – Evie is a creaky, drunken has-been, Varla is fat and stupid, Coco is beyond bitter, etc.  – but each plays so perfectly to the unquestionable strengths of the veteran cross-dressing actors that the unavoidable redundancy never really matters. Sidesplitting one-liners are tossed off at machine-gun pace. No rape joke is too offensive, no abortion gag to gross for this deliriously disgusting trio. Happily, the thesps nevert attempt to glean any genuine emotion from the riotous – if categorically frivolous – script. As Varla puts it so wellat one point: “Feelings are like treasures…so bury them.” Amen, sister.

(Appeared in Gay City News)
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