THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Terence Stamp as BERNADETTE BASSENGER
Hugo Weaving as MITZI DEL BRA
Guy Pearce as FELICIA JOLLYGOODFELLOW
Bill Hunter as BOB
Directed by: Stephan Elliot
BY KEVIN CARR
Like most people here in the states, I didn’t hear about “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” until it was up for an Academy Award for Costume Design… which it actually won. Still, that wasn’t enough to make me see this Aussie drag queen comedy.
After finally watching it, I have to say that I am sorry I had never seen it.
Still, you can’t look at this film with the same eyes today. While Terence Stamp was a big name back then, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce were virtual unknowns – at least here in the U.S. Now, all three are recognizable names and faces, each with their own macho reputation in film.
And that’s what makes “Priscilla” so much better now. Where else are you going to see General Zod, Agent Smith and the guy from “Memento” as drag queens stranded in the Australian Outback?
The film follows three performers who embark on a cross-country trip to play a drag queen show at a casino. Hugo Weaving plays Anthony “Tick” Belrose (stage name Mitzi Del Bra), the anchor of the group and the one who secured the gig. Terence Stamp is his transsexual friend Ralph/Bernadette, who has only recently lost his lover. Also along for the ride is Adam Whitely aka Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce), a wild child who is as flamboyant as they come.
The three drag queens buy a bus, which they name Priscilla, and start their journey. However, along the way, they face mechanical problems, intolerance and a cast of colorful characters along their way.
Written and directed by drag queen Stephen Elliot, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is an unflinching look behind the scenes of a drag show. It exposes their lifestyle, their challenges and their emotions. It’s not always pretty, but whose life is?
Using three characters to shoulder the burden of the story, Elliot gives each one their own voice. While they do serve as stereotypes of the drag queen, transsexual and homosexual world, they are not two-dimensional. Instead of glorifying or conversely sensationalizing their journey, Elliot lays it out there for what it is. These are real characters that could be real people, and I found myself completely taken in.
Don’t let the extreme make-up and gaudy look fool you. These guys are warm and friendly, and you can’t help but feel for their plight. And this isn’t the politically correct stereotypical plight you’d expect. It’s real problems that they have, not the problems they have with their lifestyle or sexual orientation. I never felt I was being preached at with this film, and I never felt the filmmakers were trying to send a message.
The newly released “Extra Frills Edition” of the DVD includes an audio commentary from Elliott, along with a behind-the-scenes featurette that reveals where the fabulous costumes came from. There’s also bloopers, the original theatrical trailer and a still gallery.
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” has a lot of heart, but beyond that, it’s just a fun movie. No matter what you think of the movie, it’ll be nothing like what you’d expect.
Specifications: DTS Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – enhanced for 16×9 televisions. French language track. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.