Starring: Derren Nesbitt, Jordan Stephens, April Pearson, Steve Oram
Director: James Patterson
It’s been a while since a movie about drag queens made it to a cinema release, but with Tucked we have to wait no longer. After winning Grand Jury and audience awards at OutFest and being screened at BFI Flare, the film arrives in UK cinemas this month, courtesy of Bulldog Film Distribution.
Drag veteran Jackie Collins (Nesbitt) is 80 years old but still performing his act. When he meets Faith (Stephens), a 21 year old new queen set to perform at the same venue, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. Faith is gender fluid, with little boundary between her stage persona and her reality, whereas Jackie (whose real name is indeed Jack Collins) lives by day as a man and identifies as heterosexual.
Both are vastly interesting characters. Faith is living in her car but is proud that the way she presents herself is the one thing that she does have control over. As the bond between them deepens, she sees Jackie as her grandfather, with whom she has a shared history that breaches their generational gap.
Jackie has lost everything to continue his career as a drag artist. His wife left him and he has become estranged from his daughter (Pearson) when he refused to attend her funeral. Jackie loves people but has been left entirely alone. His most revealing scene is when Faith takes him to a strip-club and buys him a private dance. What could have ensued was a moment of lechery, but instead is a beautifully tender scene in which an older man still in touch with his sexuality will not allow himself to exploit someone. While not a familiar face to many, veteran TV actor Derren Nesbitt gives a masterful and committed performance, where we see the truth behind the faded glamour, warts and all.
Something particularly unique is just how British Tucked is. Despite Faith’s very 2019 personal expression, the drag they explore is mid-twentieth century seaside resort female impersonation. Set in Brighton, Jackie is the kind of insult-comic of yore, whose monologues are peppered with explicit innuendo and whose act is more about what she says than how she looks. This is the drag of working men’s clubs, where the main gag is that there’s a butch man stood before them in a dress. This old-school British drag is something that is fading away, so to see it being passed on to a younger character here feels like an old master passing on a forgotten craft to his young apprentice.
Some scenes are a little laboured – the final scene especially – but even when Nesbitt delivers a monologue to his wife’s gravestone, we can forgive its sentimentality in favour of the love it nurtures for its characters. It is probably the most nuanced film about drag artists out there, because it doesn’t rest on the outrageous personalities of drag alteregos to keep the audience on side. If anything, it’s the truth behind these facades that we are watching for.
A character piece that puts generations alongside each other, this is a beautiful movie about finding the truth that unites us. With a strong debut from Stephens – a.k.a. Rizzle of Rizzle Kicks fame – Nesbitt absolutely stuns with this Terence Stamp of a performance. One of the best British movies you’ll see this year.
OUT IN CINEMAS 17TH MAY 2019, RELEASED BY BULLDOG FILM DISTRIBUTION.