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Kinky Boots

 
 

Kinky BootsLola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the strapping hero/heroine of the silly, quasi-inspirational British comedy "Kinky Boots," is the very model of a modern movie drag queen. Flamboyantly confrontational but tenderhearted under her brass, Lola, a k a Simon, embodies a cross-dressing archetype that is sashaying ever closer to the center stage of pop mythology. She arrives just in time to be the 21st-century replacement for that poignant outcast from an earlier era, the whore with a heart of gold.

You may remember that good/bad girl from the days of Belle Watling in "Gone With the Wind." Cast out of respectable society, often redheaded, she was the designated truth teller and reality check in countless sudsy dramas.

 
Andrew Christian
 

Living honestly if sinfully among the shamefaced hypocrites who made her a pariah, she forgave them all with a rueful, ironic smile, but still was often forced to pay for her sins by dying.

The drag queen, by contrast, usually triumphs. And in the flouting of taboos, the preening cross-dresser goes her forerunner one better. Her battle cry, "I'm more man than you'll ever be, and more woman than you'll ever get," is meant to strike fear into the hearts of her male persecutors. But having been the lifelong target of contempt and rejection, she has also developed compassion for those frightened, benighted fools.

Kinky Boots In "Kinky Boots," the tale of a failing men's shoe factory in the dreary Midlands that saves itself from ruin with the drag queen's help, Lola's being black lends her an extra layer of alienation and insight into oppression, which automatically translates into an extra layer of nobility. In one scene, she deliberately loses an arm-wrestling competition with a bully to allow him to save face.

 

That's what I call saintly. The versatile Mr. Ejiofor ("Dirty Pretty Things," "Inside Man"), seizing his opportunity, gnaws on this meaty role like a ravenous dog. In his flashy but only partly convincing performance, a crucial ingredient is missing: genuine sexual provocation.
A drag entertainer and star of a cheesy London nightclub, Lola rattles on about sexiness and how her thigh-high red stiletto boots are "tubular sex." But aside from her street-corner strut, she never behaves seductively, nor is there even a hint of sex in her life. Because her flouting of convention doesn't extend beyond sartorial display, her brand of gender-bending subversion is almost reassuring. Isn't it all just an act? And boy, can she arm-wrestle!

Kinky Boots "Kinky Boots" is the newest in a profitable line of British films, inspired by the success of "The Full Monty," that portray the awakening of working-class Britons from hidebound customs and prejudices into the brave new world of exhibitionism and narcissism. Produced by some of the same hands involved in "Calendar Girls," which was a hit internationally (but not in the United States), it feels like a product stamped on an assembly line.

Directed by Julian Jarrold, the film is said to be based on a true story. But that doesn't guarantee truthfulness. The facts, whatever they may be, have been beaten into a formulaic, feel-good movie, riddled with plot holes, that has the shape of a ready-made musical. Right down to its dizzy finale at a Milan fashion show taken over by drag queens, the movie practically shouts to be danced and sung on a stage.

The shoe factory's transformation begins after its reluctant new owner, Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), visits London and happens to save Lola from being mugged. After seeing her perform (she sings "Whatever Lola Wants," what else?), he decides to convert his business into a niche-market bootery for cross-dressers and dominatrixes, with Lola as design consultant. After a couple of false starts, it works like a charm.

Fun Fact
It is now doing the musical on Broadway with great success.

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Watch end of musical with Cyndi Lauper's song


   

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