Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Yes I'm thinking the exact same thing as you, how in dingo doo doo did they get Terence Stamp to do this?!. Two drag queens and a transsexual embark on a road trip across the Aussie outback to Alice Springs in order to put on a show. Little do they know that the hotel they are headed for is managed by a woman still married to one of the trio. Well the drag queen still married to the woman knows, he just hasn't told his friends yet.

The road trip idea isn't an original one that's for sure but turn it into a naughty drag act in the deserts of Australia and now you've got something. Sure enough the whole notion of doing something like this in the one country where homophobia and racism is not unusual and where men are men no question, is a brave move.

This film relies heavily on stereotypes, almost every character is a sly, but some might say perceptive, stereotype on the real world. The three main characters played by Weaving, Pearce and Stamp are very likeable, mouthy, bitchy queens that put each other down like no ones business, yet they clearly do care about each other greatly. These three are played up for the camera naturally, made to look loud brash and extremely catty, nails at high noon, but its harmless fun.

As for other characters or generalisations its obvious. All the men portrayed in the outback are checkered shirt, cowboy hat, jean wearing butch types that look a bit grubby. You have the typical manly gruff Aussie female called Sheila and a gold digging, trashy strip teasing Filipino woman. The only character you would expect to be bigoted is Bob Hunter's character who looks it but turns out not to be.
There aren't really any surprises in the film, most characters are exactly as you would expect them. As its set in the outback you do get the obligatory ideas before its even started, can't be helped, we have 'Crocodile Dundee' to thank for that folks.

Despite the screaming stereotypes and scene similarities to other Aussie films of the time the film is a great comedy. Just the thought of a po-faced Stamp in drag complete with a flowing blonde wig and earrings bitch slapping Guy Pearce and continuously coming out with sarky derogatory remarks is enough to peak my interest.

At the same time the film is very touching and sweet. On one hand you have Stamp's character trying to get over the recent death of her partner whilst also hoping to find herself again, middle aged, tired with her job and needing a new spark in her life. On the other hand you have Weaving's character who is trying to balance his life between what he is on the inside, his friends and of course hoping/worrying if his son will accept him. Plus if his friends will accept him for having a semi straight secret life.

This film along with another in the same year put Aussie film making on the map and has since created a huge cult following much like 'Rocky Horror'. Completely enjoyable ride no matter what your sexual orientation. A great soundtrack which doesn't go overkill with ABBA, superb performances from the main trio and with some truly gorgeous scenery/location work that I'm sure boosted tourism. Everybody wins with this one.