The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Queen Priscilla is no Drag
Don't "Darling", me, Darling. Look at you. You've got a face like a cat's arse - Bernadette
Watching "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is a surreal experience as you watch a drag queen in full get up on top of a bus miming to some operatic aria as it goes across the dusty outback. But it is also remarkably clever because on one hand you have the fun, the over the top comedy and camp-ness of drag queens bitching their way through a hazard littered road trip whilst also broaching the subjects of homophobia and intolerance as they battle small minded people on their adventures. It is to say a fun experience, one which will put a smile on your face from beginning to end but at the same time make you think and allow you to understand in a small way the difficulties that men who dress as women face.
Having received an offer to perform at a resort in Alice Springs, drag queen Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) talks fellow drag queens Felicia (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette (Terence Stamp) to join him in the show. Setting out from Sydney on an old bus they head west across the outback. But along the way tensions between the three are raised as bitchiness goes one step too far and as they have bus troubles they learn that those in the outback are not as forward thinking as those in the cities as they are greeted by homophobia and intolerance.
It is fair to say that "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is 90% pure fun, flowing with camp comedy which makes you laugh. It's over the top in every sense of the words as we watch Mitzi, Bernadette and Felicia bitch their way across the out back whilst glamming it up in over the top outfits. It does at times get a little surreal with the already mentioned operatic scenes but it is always funny. But it's not making fun of drag queens, rather embellishing the stereotype so that it is really funny whilst also showing us that they are just as normal as anyone else.
Some of this fun does come from a lot of clever dialogue and writer/director Stephan Elliott has done a brilliant job of filling "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" with hysterical one liner's and amusing scenes. It is raw in terms of the expletive ridden language but amusingly so as a bitchy comment is usually followed by a comical swear word. But the clever writing covers the actual storyline as well as it is more than just a comedy road trip it is a look into how drag queens, cross dressers and transsexuals are treated or should that be mistreated.
As such there is a more serious side to "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" a side which shows how difficult life is for these people who choose to be different in a world which can't accept them. You begin to appreciate that whilst there are areas that you could call progressive where they are accepted there are just as many where they are not and treated like dirt. But what is nice is that it also shows that times are changing that a new generation are more accepting, more educated and maybe the days of homophobia and intolerance may be ending. What is good is that whilst Stephan Elliott shows this real world he never allows it to affect the fun of the movie by becoming to maudlin, instead using them to show that life isn't all fun, fun, fun.
Part of the fun of "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is that it is full of music and the opening scene which sees Hugo Weaving miming to "I've Never Been to Me" is one of the best. But the soundtrack is full of what you could call camp classics so we go through the likes of "Fernando", "I Will Survive" and "Mamma Mia" but then you get the operatic "E Strano! Ah Fors E Lui" as well as the divinely beautiful "Save The Best for Last".
All of which makes "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" a very entertaining movie but it is the performances of it's trio of stars Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp which take it to another level. Weaving who is central to much of the movie with the storyline built around his character is wonderful as Tick or Mitzi as he is also known delivering camp comedy but also the heart ache, the emotion of what being a drag queen has cost him. Alongside him you have Guy Pearce who has great fun delivering Camp with a capital "C" as the seriously over the top but great fun Adam, aka Felicia. And then there is Terence Stamp who let's be honest you wouldn't expect to dress up as a drag queen but in doing so brings dignity to the movie as we witness his own heart ache. All 3 of them are so good it's wrong to single one out as they bounce off each other brilliantly and any hang ups they may of had over dressing in drag certainly don't show.
What this all boils down to is that "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is a stunning movie which will make you smile, make you laugh, get you singing along with various songs, shock you by it's outrageous camp-ness but at the same time highlight the ignorance and homophobia that these people suffer in a small minded world. The best way to describe "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is that it is a fun, surreal experience which delivers emotion as well as comedy.
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