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The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

April 6, 2011

866. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Directed by Stephan Elliott
Australia, 1994
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing

Synopsis:

Drag queen Mitzi Del Bra, aka ‘Tick’ Belrose (Hugo Weaving) is offered a gig at a resort Hotel in the Australian desert, but he needs two performers to join him. He enlists the help of young drag queen Adam/Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce) and transsexual Bernadette Basinger (Terence Stamp), both of whom have their own reasons for wanting to get out of Sydney. They purchase a big, dilapidated bus which they christen ‘Priscilla,’ and adventure does indeed ensue — with a few surprises along the way.

Essential Scene:

(Any dance scene is a must, but I also enjoyed this…)

Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette have arrived at their first pit stop, and decide to go into the local bar. Mitzi and Felicia are in full drag. Dozens of rather large, burly men stop what they’re doing and watch as Felicia and Bernadette sit down gracefully at the bar.

Bernadette: [to bartender] Hello. Could I please have a Stoli and tonic, a Bloody Mary, and a lime daiquiri, please?

An equally burly woman appears from amongst the men.

Woman: Well! Look what the cat dragged in! What have we got here, eh? A couple of show girls, have we? Where did you ladies come in from, Uranus?

Bernadette: [to bartender] Could I please have a Sto–

Woman: [slaps Bernadette’s hand down onto the bar] No! You can’t have! You can’t have nothing! We’ve got nothing here for people like you. Nothing!

Bernadette slowly takes the woman’s hand off hers and looks her straight in the eye. She replies, utterly calm and collected.

Bernadette: Now listen here, you mullet. Why don’t you just light your tampon and blow your box apart? Because it’s the only bang you’re ever gonna get, sweetheart.

One man roars with laughter and the rest of the bar’s inhabitants join in with guffaws. The woman slinks slowly away and everyone enjoys a night of drunken singing and drinking games.

Thoughts:

It would be so easy to rely on stereotypes when dealing subject matters such as these, and that has probably been the downfall of many an LGBT portrayal. Very thankfully, Priscilla does not do this. It is kitsch at times — but what’s wrong with a bit of kitsch?

The characters in Priscilla are three-dimensional and have depth. Terence Stamp in particular is wonderful as Bernadette. He gives her such dignity and poise, even when she has to punch a man to defend poor Felicia. Priscilla not only preaches tolerance but it shows Bernadette, Felicia and Mitzi as exactly what they are; human.

I would go into a little more depth but that would ruin a few plot surprises. So I shall just say that this is my kind of road movie. The visuals of the deserts are so breathtaking, especially coupled with dance routines to ’70s music in killer, bright frocks. My goodness! Can we have a blu-ray soon, please?

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