“The Adventures of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert” ain’t no “Brokeback Mountain”, so relax. OK you don’t care anyway? Good. Then you may also be able to enjoy the “Abba turd” joke, after all this is a movie about tolerance. If so, you are in for a wild surreal ride of laughter or if you are more for the emotional drama you can laugh less and smile more. One thing is for sure, this movie oozes positive energy and makes you feel good, contagiously so. If you say this ain’t so then I am afraid we have to agree to disagree and let bygones be bygones.
This “Extra Frills Edition” is a new release of the originally 1994 released Australian indie movie about three drag queens on a road trip through the Outback. It is a “gay” movie indeed, in the original meaning of the word. Personal interests aside, this is not a kids movie and some may not have any interest in musicals and even less so in musicals where male actors dress up in women’s clothing, wear tons of makeup and all sorts of silly stuff is happening on screen. Having said that, “Priscilla” isn’t quite a musical, it has quite a lot of music in it but it is not a musical per se, yet the actors move their lips to the sound of music, they don’t actually sing, just like in a musical, huh? OK, it is a musical, sort of… and yet it is a road movie, too.
Tick (Weaving), Adam (Pearce) and Ralph (Stamp) are on a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform a Drag Show at a casino run by Tick’s wife. Not only is Tick married but he also has a son. This is one of the many things Felicia/Adam and Bernadette/Ralph find out during their journey. “Priscilla” – their new home – is an old school bus full with costumes and all sorts of colorful stuff from animal print furniture, fluffy lampshades to a sewing machine, an always fully stocked minibar and a freckin’ tanning bed, that’s right. This is one crazy “lavender” bus!
There is not much story in “Priscilla” as it is mostly about getting from point A (Sydney) to B (Alice Springs), doing your stuff there and then the movie is basically over. It closes as it opens, back in a bar in Sydney where Tick and Adam in the end are doing their rendition of “Mamma Mia” from Abba (the only Abba song in the whole movie!).
The bizarre “journey” is what makes this movie fun to watch.
The fact that you get to see one of Britain’s most infamous villains as a tranny and such manly characters such as Agent Smith and the guy from Memento as Drag Queens giving one hell of a performance should be reason enough to enjoy this movie. The Oscar Winning costumes are totally bizarre and with the Australian Outback as a backdrop it just gets more and more surreal as this lavender bus “plunges” through the desert with its three colorful passengers singing along all the way to Alice Springs, even when the bus breaks down and life in the desert is hell after wicked hangovers there is always a tune to lighten the mood and make you feel good.
Are there any negative things about “Priscilla”? I guess you can find lots but I had such a good time I did not bother to look. Sure, at times you do notice that Stamp was totally fed up, esp. in the Aborigine scene at night in the desert where his costume was basically falling apart during the scene and in the end Pearce stepped on his costume behind him and Stamp fell flat on his face. This happens off camera but you can actually see how Stamp starts falling and Elliott confirms this in his commentary. So how is this negative? Well, if the movie had had a bigger budget things would have gone smoother which would have made the actors more happy but then again who is to say that this may indeed have worked in favor of the movie then. Maybe the movie needed Stamp to be miserable, we will never know! The horror.
Anyhow, buckle up and enjoy the wild ride because “that’s just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock.”