Kinky Boots (2005)
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah-Jane Potts, Jemima Rooper, Ewan Hooper, Linda Bassett, Nick Frost
Directed by: Julian Jarrold
I know I can sometimes come across as a humourless snob when it comes to my reviews. I generally have little time for trifling films that others love, and usually turn my nose up at the middlebrow fare that Hollywood too often gives us. But, I do understand the appeal of simple movies. While I prefer a well-made movie, I too have the ability to enjoy comfort food-type movies, the unchallenging kind that hit familiar notes to make you feel good inside.
I bring this up because Kinky Boots, despite its seemingly exotic premise, is a formulaic Brit com that is completely predictable and, save for the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor, fairly unremarkable. It’s another movie along the lines of other Brit coms like The Full Monty, Mrs. Henderson Presents, and Calendar Girls (also directed by Julian Jarrold) that takes a racy premise, then delivers a safe, friendly message about tolerance, with seemingly conservative, blue collar Brits learning something about themselves in the end. Yet, despite its simplicity, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Based on a true story, Kinky Boots tells the story of a Northampton shoe factory that falls on hard times when the “son” of “Price and Sons” shoes takes over reluctantly when his revered father passes on. When Charlie (Joel Edgerton) learns of the financial difficulties the company faces and is forced to layoff employees, a happenstance meeting with drag queen Lola (Ejiofor) inspires him to save his business by making a line of women’s shoes for men. Hilarity ensues as the blue collar workers of Price and Sons and the unassuming Charlie mix with the saucy Lola to manufacture “sex” instead of the stuffy men’s shoes they’re accustomed to, all in time to debut the line at Milan.
The best part of the movie, and best reason to see it, is Ejiofor’s performance as Lola. Ejiofor energises the movie, capturing your attention everytime he’s on screen. Ejiofor is vivacious, but still manages to keep the performance from devolving into camp or the over-the-top portrayal drag queens generally get in movies. The rest of the cast contribute to the movie’s overall charm, but Ejiofor is the only standout. While his character is winning, and deftly handled by Ejiofor, it’s a problematic character in that the movie relies on Lola for its sauciness, but treats her as asexual. Lola exposits on the importance of selling sex in the boots and her act, but is treated as a eunuch with no sexual desires for herself (in fact, the movie doesn’t even establish Lola’s orientation at all. I guess it’s okay for a dude to wear a dress, but a little too risque to suggest that he’s into other dudes).
It’s the charm of the movie that makes it enjoyable, despite the fact that the movie itself is predictable and trite. It’s a simple movie that isn’t anyway as risky as its premise suggests as it is, instead delivering a heartwarming crowd pleaser that feels like other movies you’ve seen, but manages to hit its familiar notes well enough to provide an enjoyable viewing. It’s an average movie with a fantastic performance that is the ideal, lightweight entertainment on a night where you want to relax with a bowl of popcorn and have a good laugh.