Thursday, October 20, 2005

Taller than a seven-inch stiletto

A review of Kinky Boots

Nevermind the soppy feel-good factor, you can’t help but leave the cinema with both thumbs up after watching this latest addition to the same UK breed that spawned Brassed Off, The Full Monty and a few others. Although the suspicion that the troubled prodigal son will come up with something heroic is there from the start, the Northampton-based storyline makes up for pleasant entertainment.

Kinky Boots is about an unlikely hero, Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), who unexpectedly inherits a family shoe-factory with a proud tradition but about to go bust nonetheless.

The background is grimly realistic, given that for the last twenty years UK manufacturing has been facing intense clobbering from cheaper imports. Amongst a fanfare of drama and cross-sex antics, the only way to salvage fifteen jobs and a man's dreams turns out to be the search for a niche market. And what a niche market it is: Charlie stumbles upon drag queen Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and here’s where the story takes off. With a backdrop soaked with homophobic prejudice and provincial mentality (“this is not London”, Charlie often chastises his new cross-dressing ally- oh Midlands, so much to answer for…), Lola comes forth as the last glimpse of hope: a self-appointed footwear designer on a painfully emotional mission to show what makes indeed a real man.

Sexy heels for transvestites - and a modern fairy tale that takes you from Northampton to Milan’s fashion shows via Soho dingy cabaret clubs - become the key to avoid redundancy and emotional disaster. Add an evil, unsympathetic and self-centred girlfriend to the recipe and Kinky Boots makes for a potential hit at the box office. Edgerton and Ejiofor are superb in their respective roles that sees them both juggling with family pressure and society conventions.

It is refreshing to see for once our UK screens not portraying the safe yet clown-esque parody of gayness that too often makes up for cheap entertainment (think the abysmal Queer Eye for The Straight Guy). Kinky Boots has some grit in it, showing that there’s more to it than a seven-inch stiletto and at times it even manages to convey the cruelty and aggravation that homosexuals still have to put up with in this country. Only last week, Clapham Common’s shocking homophobic murder of Jody Dobrowski was a bleak reminder of a real world that is still behind in spite of entertainment chimps a-la “Nadia from Big Brother”.

Full marks to Kinky Boots.

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