The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Immensely entertaining, though you can’t help suspecting that much of it is designed to suck up to hetero audiences. (The following year’s To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar had the same problem.) Two drag queens, Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Felicia (Guy Pearce), and the matronly, dignified transsexual Bernadette (Terence Stamp) journey through the Australian outback in a rickety bus (“Priscilla”) to fulfill Felicia’s dream of posing in full drag on a cliff at Australia’s geographical center. (“Just what this country needs,” deadpans Stamp, “a cock in a frock on a rock.”) Writer-director Stephan Elliot keeps the proceedings funny and lively but bows to the Hollywood convention of “marrying off” everyone except the younger, brasher queen. The ending is cozy and unrealistic, but one can appreciate Elliot’s wanting to make a jolly piece of gay pop (as opposed to much of the gloom-laden, AIDS-haunted gay cinema of the early ‘90s). Stamp, after years of obscurities and junk, pulled off a career-saving turn, and it’s amusing in retrospect to see the future Elrond/Agent Smith in drag. The soundtrack, selected to please fans of chintzy ‘70s pop, includes “I Will Survive,” “I Love the Night Life,” and more ABBA than you ever wanted to hear in one 102-minute film. The costumes deservedly won an Oscar. The material later inspired a stage show.

Explore posts in the same categories: comedy, drama

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