Catching Up: Kinky Boots (2006)

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Kinky Boots (2006)

Kinky Boots, both the movie and the musical, has been on my radar for quite some time, but somehow I have never seen either production.  This is particularly surprising due to my love of musicals, Chiwetel Ejiofor (and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical” nominated performances), and LGBT cinema.  With this movie coming out when I was still in West Virginia, despite debuting when I was coming out, I missed the movie’s release and wrote it off as an unimpressive British release.  With the Tony-award winning adaptation from Cyndi Lauper, I determined early on that without seeing the aforementioned written-off film, I would just wait to see the musical.  Netflix has finally led me to watch the movie, and I have come out of it pleasantly entertained.

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Loosely based on the true story of a shoe factory on the brink of closure, we find our lead Charlie (Joel Edgerton) giving up his life in London to try to save his family shoe factory following his father’s death.  Full of all the memories he attempted to leave behind, the factory still threatens to fail after discovering his father’s broken business dealings.  Charlie finds unlikely inspiration in London based drag queen Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a escaped native of seafaring England who is now in heels that can not handle his athlete’s build.  Teaming up to battle transphobia, lower middle class living, and buckling stilettos, this mismatched duo with more in common than they expect learn much from one another (more Charlie from Lola, of course).

 

Of course this sounds like a drag spin on an overdone inspiration dramedy, because in many ways it is.  The writing from Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, the latter best known for adapting Calendar Girls, is mostly mediocre and predictable.  Charlie has lady problems, and the relationships come to unsatisfying results.  Lola goes toe-to-toe to the queerphobic dumbass in the factory played by Nick Frost.  The story runs in circles: trouble, solution, more trouble, sassy solution; and there are disappointingly few laughs along the way.  Director Julian Jarrold, much like in his other jobs (Becoming Jane, Brideshead Revisited, to name a pair), does little to advance an often bland plot.

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The highlight of the movie is easily Chiwetel Ejiofor.  So different from the modern scientist and historic actor we know and Oscar nominate today, Ejiofor has never since had this much fun in a role.  To this day the actor acknowledges the difficulties of being gay in this industry, he does justice to this strong queer character.  The role is treated with care, and though underwritten like the rest of the movie, Chiwetel adds his emotive performance and pulls humor out of poorly written lines.  His performance scenes as the bass tone Lola are the shining example of why this movie moved to the stage.  He provides so much vigor in this live singing, extravagant role, it is impossible to not fall in love with the character on and off stage.  She is a strong performer, and particularly for the time, very handsomely portrayed.  Add on the exceptional costume work from Sammy Sheldon, whose credits now include The Imitation Game, X-Men First Class, and V for Vendetta, and the movie is eye popping.  The shoes alone would be great, but as far as drag costumes go, these are right behind Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

 

Kinky Boots returns to Seattle in late April for another run.  Having missed last year’s arrival, I will certainly be catching the show this time around.  I have been avoiding the cast album since my viewing, looking forward to the surprises in store from Cyndi Lauper’s Tony-winning songbook.  The source material is ripe for the stage, and I cannot wait to pluck the enjoyment from an anticipated viewing.

 2.5 out of 4 stars

ckryaninko

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