Philly Fest Report: Kinky Boots Review

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Julian Jarrold's Kinky Boots is entirely predictable and emotionally manipulative. The first act is hugely flawed, failing to properly establish several key relationships and the nature of its lead character leaving lead actor Joel Edgerton looking lost and outclassed by his co-stars throughout the early going. It borrows the exact structure of virtually every working class UK comedy made since The Full Monty. But when it works - which is pretty much every scene involving Chiwetel Ejiofor - it really works, and it ends up being exactly what it wants to be: an effective mainstream crowd pleaser.

Edgerton stars as Charlie Price, the heir to a Northampton shoe factory who wants nothing more than to shed his roots, get out of the midlands and move to London. He seems well on his way to that goal, shopping for flats with his estate agent fiance when his father dies suddenly and leaves the factory in his hands. Charlie returns to Northampton to take over the factory and quickly learns that it is in dire straights and in danger of closing.

If it was only himself involved Charlie would be fine with selling but after spending a day laying off employees the possible closure takes on a human face and Charlie sets off an a desperate quest to find some new niche market that he can move into to save the factory. Salvation comes in the form of Lola (Chiwetel Ejiafor), a London drag queen. Queens, you see, are forced to wear women's footwear, shoes not designed to bear the weight of a man and prone to break at bad times. With Lola as his designer Charlie sets out to refit his factory to produce a new line of footwear, sexy boots for drag queens.

The film, from this point, plays out exactly as you would expect it to. There is conflict between Lola and the blue collar factory workers, conflict between Lola and Charlie, conflict between Charlie and his fiance - who wants nothing more than to sell the factory and move to London - and a budding romance between Charlie and one of his young workers.

The humor of the film comes from a mix of Ejiofor's physical presence - the man is about as unlikely a drag queen as you could expect - and the clash of cultures. Edgerton's Charlie plays the straight man throughout but Ejiofor gets to fire off a good number of fantastic lines and the entire supporting cast - Nick Frost plays a key though relatively small role - is very strong. And while everybody in the theater knows that the film is bound to end with a rousing, inspirational drag number that makes it no less effective when it comes.

Though Edgerton is more than pulling his own weight by the end of the film this is purely Ejiofor's film. The man has made a career of outshining his higher billed co-stars and that is no different here. Without him the film would be a shambles but Ejiofor makes it work purely by the force of his own personality. That he is still playing support roles rather than leads is simply a mystery.

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logboyApril 8, 2006 3:02 PM

i am glad you got to see it, i havent and neither have most of the british public i think - it fell flat at the cinema and it seems to have gone relatively unnoticed that the films out their on R2 UK DVD now or soon.

personally, the most interesting part of the story is the reality and not the fantasy... the original TV show which inspired the film is on the DVD i think, and i saw it on TV when it originally went out. theres a long tradition of one-off 'blink and youll miss it' TV documentaries that fit into an hours duration and bring some really odd and unusual stories into out homes... theres also a strong and increasing tradition for shows about businesses that are failing or need improving. i highly recommend seeing the one that inspired 'kinky boots' - the man running the factory and shifting their output to fetsih wear is to be applauded for being so open-minded and forward-thinking as to shift a very traditional business in order for it to not only survive but to flourish. the man even modelled the things.... braver man than me.

JasperApril 8, 2006 4:57 PM

I think most of the British public, including me, looked at the reviews and the ads and just thought, wow, another Brit-pic preying off the success of FULLY MONTY and CALENDAR GIRLS. There was never any question of going to see it in the cinema. I can totally imagine what it was like. Sad how this sort of woolly comedy finds funding in Britain seeing as so few films get made here at the momemnt.

MayaApril 10, 2006 12:35 AM

This is currently screening at the Sonoma Film Festival. And its release in SF is linked in to a contest at our local S&M fashionwear outlet, Mr. S. Prurience reigns, I guess....
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