Sunday, September 23, 2007

Transvestites and Australia Make for the Perfect Pair!

Three transvestites, a big pink school bus and the middle of the Outback: All three comprise one hilarious Australian film centered around a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs, Australia in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I had never heard of this film until a recent trip with Northeastern University and the dialogue of civilizations program to Australia. The classes we took were mainly about the communication programs in Australia, including radio, television and film. One of the most interesting aspects that I learned while there was that Australia is so concerned with preserving their own culture, that the government finances movies to be made in and about Australia. Priscilla is one of these movies. The group of 20 of us, including my professor took a trip to the Film Finance Corporation, where they decide which scripts are worthy enough to receive money. Their budget is incredibly small. What they spend to make an entire full length feature could easily be spent on Tom Cruises’ trailer and food for one of his big blockbusters.

It is one of the country’s most famous movies and won in Oscar in 1995 for Best Costume Design. It also won a string of awards in Australia.

The gorgeous Australian landscape and ostentatious costumes are a wonderful facet to the film, but it is the characters that make the piece so incredibly lovable.

Hugo Weaving (most known in America for playing the man behind the infamous mask in V for Vendetta) stars as Mitzi (aka Anthony) an incredibly gay, but straight acting man who reels in his friend Bernadette (formally known as Ralph) the only transsexual of the group who is a veteran in the transvestite show business and Felicia (aka Adam) the flamboyantly gay trophy boy, with bulging muscles and bronzed skin that every man, gay or straight, would want to spend a night with. Felicia is played by hottie Guy Pearce of Memento.

Bernadette, played by Terance Stamp, is depressed after the death of a former boyfriend, so decides that the trip out to the middle of nowhere Alice Springs will help get over her loss and begin a new chapter in her life.

According to a review by the New York Times:

Mr. Stamp cuts a spectacular figure as a sardonic transsexual named Bernadette, part of a three-queen drag act on a bus tour through the wilds of Australia. Even on his own, marvelously ladylike and loaded with sly, acerbic wisecracks, he's worth the price of admission.

When they hit the road, Felicia declares, “I’ve got a splitting headache” and with that opens the first aide kit to find bottles and bottles of Stoli vodka, mixers and cocktail glasses. These boys/girls can sure hold their liquor throughout the film, but it only makes it more hilarious.

When they decide to stop one night in a small town and stay in a hotel, they make their way over to a townie bar dressed up in their garb, including a dress made entirely out of flip-flop sandals, with matching dangly earrings included.

Out of every man at the bar, who comes over to stare at the them, the only one to say something to them is a scraggly old woman. Bernadette quickly responds and receives an array of laughter from the townies standing behind her and then proceeds to drink the woman under the table going shot for shot.

The movie deals well with prejudice and there is a lot of in the film, including vulgar language spray painted on their bus, a couple who abandons them after they get lost in the middle of nowhere and Felicia almost getting killed after dressing as a woman and almost snagging herself a straight man who clearly does not see her Adam’s apple at first.

The characters use humor to deal with the prejudice they receive while on their road trip. But nonetheless, Felicia still utters

“No matter how tough I think I’m getting, it still hurts” when confronted with those who do not agree with their lifestyle.

The culmination of the film, however, turns the prejudice around.

Mitzi meets his son again since he was a child and his son is completely understanding of his father’s lifestyle, and even at the tender age of 8, has no qualms about it.

When asked by Felicia, “Do you know what your dad does for a living?"he simply responds with, “Yes. So tell me, does dad have a boyfriend now?"Felicia looks both appalled and amazed at this innocent young child’s mentality.

With a new generation of understanding, the three know that their work and the way they live their lives will always be tolerated and appreciated by someone.

The very end of the film culminates in what Felicia had set out to do with the trip: The three gorgeous drag queens hiking up King’s Canyon in Alice Springs, in their full garb and looking out on the beautiful red rocks below. I was fortunate enough to hike King’s Canyon myself while in Australia and that is not an easy task, so to do that in a tight skirt, blue wig and high heels must have been quite rewarding for those queens!

The film itself though, was quite hilarious and I feel that being immersed in the Australian culture for a month allowed me to comprehend a lot of the little jokes and quips that occurred throughout the film, which helped me to appreciate it a lot more. It was great to see a film that could comprise both the ups and downs of living that sort of lifestyle and how people’s attitudes towards them change with the post code.

“For all its glitter, this is the sort of film in which everyone becomes happier and nicer by the final reel.”- The New York Times


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