Day 3: A FILM THAT GIVES YOU UNADULTERATED PLEASURE
THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (Australia, 1994)
Written and Directed By: Stephan Elliot
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce
Two drag queens and a transsexual travel across the Australian Outback in order to perform a show at a prestigious resort in a small town. Leaving Sydney behind, Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving), Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette (Terence Stamp) decide to travel in a beat-up old lavender-coloured bus they christen Priscilla. Along the way they make new friends, enemies and learn to get along with one another in time to perform their big show.
WHY I LOVE IT
It's campy fun. It's also the only time where I approve of the use of songs by Abba. I'd always been curious about the film but never got around to actually watching it in its entirety. I expected it to be mildly entertaining, at the very least. What I didn't expect was to love every minute of it, from start to finish. It's certainly deserving of its massive cult following.
At times both funny and heartbreaking, all three characters break away from drag queen stereotypes to become real people with ambitions, personal issues and families of their own to take care of. Stephan Elliot's excellent script is made even better by his three lead actors; all of whom turn their characters into genuine people. Hugo Weaving portrays Tick as a sensitive bundle of nerves whose sole focus is the show and the secret he's protecting from the other two. Guy Pearce is campy fun as Adam, a drama queen who loves being noticed but has a softer side when the time calls for it. Terence Stamp gives the strongest performance in a role that seemed to be written for his dry wit (he should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor that year). Stamp infuses Bernadette with an almost motherly authority, while still having a dark sense of humour and an appetite for performing. Stamp's Bernadette is the heart and soul of the film.
The costumes and make-up are gorgeous, the song and dance numbers excellent and if the cinematography doesn't make you want to catch the next plane out to Australia, than I don't know what will. The film manages to be quintessentially Australian in its portrayal of their culture while allowing audiences from around the world to embrace its themes of equality, perseverance and friendship.
This film goes above and beyond what you'd normally expect from a film about a drag act. It moves past tired stereotypes and develops a coherent script that ha humour, heartbreak and is full of heart.
TOP: Terence Stamp as Bernadette
MIDDLE: Guy Pearce as Tick/Mitzi
BOTTOM: Guy Pearce as Adam/Felicia