“Buckle up, darlings,” warns Billy Bloom, the adolescent protagonist of “Freak Show
,” with his most salacious Bette Davis
sneer. “I’m gonna take you on a little ride I call my life.” For a second, you sense some affectionate irony in Trudie Styler
’s well-intentioned but woolly directorial debut: After all, many’s the privileged suburban teenager who has declared their life wilder and wackier than anyone else’s.
It doesn’t take long to realize, however, that “Freak Show
” takes Billy (gamely played by British rising star Alex Lawther
) entirely at his word. An out-and-proud, drag-loving high-schooler who delights in subverting masculine norms — and wears his resulting social isolation as a badge of honor — he’s certainly a beautiful misfit. Yet Styler’s surface-level adaptation of James St. James
’ queer bildungsroman shows us more of Billy’s eye-popping wardrobe than his soul, as his superficially defined exceptionalism tilts ever less endearingly into narcissism; we leave this carnival-colored