This week’s film is brought to you by false eyelashes, skin-tight sequined dresses, and enough concealer to recolor the walls of a small apartment. Drag queens, ok? It’s about drag queens–and one rather renowned in particular.
I mean, technically there’s a plot, but mostly this is a vehicle for Bianca Del Rio to throw shade at homophobes.
Richard is a long-suffering science teacher who genuinely cares about learning–if only his students felt the same way. Meanwhile, his interest in stand-up comedy seems to be horribly misguided as he persistently gets a cringeworthy number of laughs.
Feeling completely disheartened, Richard finally gets some good news in the form of a call from the head of a teaching ambassador program (played by a fantastically sinister Alan Cumming). The catch? The position is in Milford, a small Texas town into football, nepotism, and traditional gender roles.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Richard is a bit of a fish out of water as a gay man whose masculinity doesn’t jive with the gun-toting football fanatics. Richard fails to make it through the first day of class when his students blow up the chemistry lab. While the principal may have overlooked this incident, when he discovers Richard’s sexuality, it’s all over.
In an attempt to drink away his sorrows, Richard ends up at a bar only to discover he now lives in a dry county. However, he does manage to befriend a trans woman named Karma, who invites him to a drag show that evening. After Richard has one too many drinks, he performs in drag and finds inspiration to return to Milford…as Bianca. Not only could Bianca win $25,000 if she wins Teacher of the Year, but perhaps more importantly could whip the smart but unmotivated students into shape and seek revenge on those responsible for ending Richard’s career (including Rachel Dratch?!).
With no small amount of scathing sarcasm, Bianca gets to work. She shames the students into being nicer to the closeted gay kid while also giving him some fighting tips. When the students fail to complete their chemistry reading, they’re in for a nasty surprise that would definitely get a teacher fired IRL. Bianca also gives hilariously harsh nicknames to all of the students, including labeling one of the cheerleaders “Bathmat.”
Meanwhile, the school’s football coach Chuck takes a shine to Bianca. When she discovers Chuck is Karma’s estranged brother, Bianca can’t resist doing some meddling…which has some unexpected consequences. After learning of Bianca’s scheming, Karma is furious and insists she leave.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, Bianca is nominated for Teacher of the Year. When her drag queen besties arrive in town from New York, a rival teacher makes one last bid to earn the title for her daughter, and rumors of Lady Gaga’s appearance at the ceremony abound, shenanigans ensue. Of course, it’s all going down at the Teacher of the Year Awards.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is a sweet and irresistibly bubbly film that still manages to touch on real issues LGBT people contend with. At times, the lightness of the film does undermine the message somewhat–the ending is all a bit after-school special. While I wasn’t going in expecting Dallas Buyers Club, there were still times when I wanted the film to embrace its serious themes more fully.
Also minor bone to pick: some of Bianca’s insults come from a fat-shaming/body-shaming place that I just can’t get behind. It seemed to send a message that it’s ok to body shame people who are fat or have had plastic surgery as long as they’re assholes. I did find most of Bianca’s sassy quips delightful, but IDK if I can really get behind fat-shaming anyone.
There are some excellent cameos to be seen, and even if the cast may not be getting any Oscars, they are charming and charismatic enough to make up for it. Overall, the message is positive and does shine a light on some of the BS laws making it even more difficult for people to identify as LGBT at work, school, and in their private lives.