Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Sarah Chadwick
Part of the 40 Years of Filmhouse Season
A pink coach rushes through Australia's red desert to the sound of Verdi. Standing on the roof is an outrageously dressed creature - her long silk train flapping defiantly over the bleak landscape. A cross-pover cross-dressing comedy, Stephan Elliot's brash, liberating and poignant road-movie follows three drag queens as they risk laddered stockings, damaged nails and bruised egos by driving Priscilla - their tastefully converted bus - from Sydney to a mystery gig in the armpit of Australia, Alice Springs. 'Le Girls' in question are ageing transexual Bernadette (Terence Stamp), sharp tongued Felicia (ex-Neighbours star Guy Pearce) and sensitive flower Mimi (Hugo Weaving from Proof), and this visually extraordinary, aurally offensive celebration of campness takes them where no lip-synching queens have ever been before.
Whether bitching about ABBA, whingeing about the privations of cross-country travel, or tottering in wigs and outrageous frocks into bars of one-horse towns, the trio are at first objects of ridicule. But as the bus heads for the inevitable breakdown, they each reveal emotional vulnerabilities that subvert our prejudices.
Thrown off-balance by Elliott's script, and drawn into an increasing intimacy with the three contrasting drag artistes, we shift from laughing at to laughing with the tacky trio.
Unlike their vehicle, the film never gets bogged down, driven forward inexorably by the naff disco tunes and crackling dialogue. More impressive still is the Felliniesque panache Elliott brings to the visuals, isolating the extravagantly dressed figures in astonishing, orange-tined desert landscapes and staging the production numbers like a frustrated director of musicals. Yet this all-stops-out, almost operatic approach is complemented by anchoring performances that range from understated dignity (Stamp) through outrageous excess (Pearce) to quiet sensitivity (Weaving). Only a killjoy or die-hard homophobe could fail to be swept along by such generous and stylish exuberance. (original blurb)
1994 prices: Matinee: £2.20/£1.50, Evening: £4.00/£3.20
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