Dancing Queens **
Starring: Molly Nutley, Max Ulveson, Fredrik Quinones
Director: Helena Bergstrom
Do you remember when seeing drag queens on screen was a rare treat? And when Priscilla and Hedwig were glamorous oddities in a heteronormative film world? Well, just like anything that you can over-engorge on, it would appear that drag has now saturated so far into the mainstream that some filmmakers have forgotten how to capture the sparkle that makes films about drag culture so unique. Dancing Queens is like a copy of a copy of a copy that has lost the essence of the thing it is trying to depict. As a result, we have a film about drag that is – shock horror – boring! Now, who knew that was even possible?
Dylan (Nutley) has grown up in a small coastal town in rural Sweden, dreaming of one day becoming a dancer. She delivers post by day but eventually convinces her parents to allow her to travel to Stockholm and audition for a famous dance troupe. Except when she arrives, she has missed the audition by a week. Refusing to return home, she takes a job working as a cleaner in a drag club, but it isn’t long before her talents are spotted by their choreographer (Quinones) and she is put on stage. The only catch? In order to justify her performing there, she must pretend she is a drag queen.
What sounds like a really fun set-up for a comedy then immediately proceeds to fall flat on its face, taking itself far too seriously. The drag queens are over-earnest and not very pleasant, while Dylan cares little for the community that she’s been thrust into. Drag is seemingly dismissed as a ramshackle art-form with little artistry or merit, while the film takes much more pleasure in showing off Molly Nutley’s dancing talent than spending any real time establishing a believable drag troupe. Clearly capitalising on the worldwide post-Drag Race fascination with queens, this exploits the zeitgeist rather than tapping into it.
Unfortunately, its most interesting scenes are those away from the club, back in her home town as Dylan delivers mail by boat. Reminiscent of last year’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga, the charm of this seaside Scandinavian town is beguiling. This supposedly “boring” town ends up feeling far more appealing than this second-rate drag club, which is clearly the opposite of what the director intended. I critiqued Stage Mother earlier this year for failing to capture that magical essence of drag, but Dancing Queens doesn’t just fail; it falls flat on its face, with the result about as glamorous as a Billy bookcase. What an absolute failure.
UK Release: Out now on Netflix