Bullied girly-boy Scott Townsend grows into revered drag queen Thirsty Burlington fighting obstacles along the way only to discover what he really wants is self-acceptance.Bullied girly-boy Scott Townsend grows into revered drag queen Thirsty Burlington fighting obstacles along the way only to discover what he really wants is self-acceptance.Bullied girly-boy Scott Townsend grows into revered drag queen Thirsty Burlington fighting obstacles along the way only to discover what he really wants is self-acceptance.
As a narrative, the movie jumps around from era to era, and the shifts in time don't seem to have a clear trigger other than the need to explain things after the fact. Almost everything about every scene screams community theater, maybe even successful community theater to be charitable. I choose to believe that's an intentional conceit employed to echo the usually campy and slapdash, though highly entertaining, nature of drag shows (even good ones). And just like a drunken floor show on a Saturday night, it all somehow works, seemingly in spite of itself.
The movie has its serious moments. In a few choice scenes, the actors break through the curds littering the surface to deliver something akin to real emotion. A notable example: Johnny Beauchamp, and Dierdre Lovejoy are believeable in the scene in which a teenaged Scott Townsend attempts to come out to his alcoholic mother on her deathbed. Beauchamp is a study in ambivalence as he applies his mother's makeup in the mirror, and Lovejoy plays it real, living in the part of a mother who would rather embody Cleopatra all the way to her grave than give her gay son the one comfort he needed most -- the security of knowing his mother's love is unconditional.
In another scene, the suggested sexual assault of 11-year-old Scott (Cole Canzano) by his closeted-bully tormentor*, Chicky (Christopher Rivera), adds an extra layer of darkness to an already inky cake. The event, which we hear but which takes place off camera, is mercifully short. Hats off to the producers for having the courage to address it and the sensitivity to know when enough is enough.
I'm not sure what constitutes a good drag performance these days, but those of Townsend's Thirsty Burlington seem to be artful enough. Give the man a dollar bill! His caricature of Cher is spot on, but the performances seem to occur always in low-rent bars before tired crowds of less than a dozen. The costumes are also threadbare and look as though they've seen better nights. Townsend is billed on the internet as the the toast of Provincetown. Shouldn't there have been at least one hooting crowd? Perhaps big audiences and polish aren't true to the story, but a little license for the sake of the viewers would have been welcome, if just for the sake of watchability.
"Thirsty" is, indeed, a mixed bag. It flits from eye-rolling farce to droll if canned comedy to moments of drama that march right up to the line of mawkishness without ever crossing it (yes, just like a drag show). Add moments of real drama and an approach that mimics what it portrays and you get something like an OK movie, though one you may only want to watch once. On a Saturday night. With the blinds closed. Drinking a cosmopolitan.
*Lookin' at you, Franklin.
- Jun 30, 2021