Kinky Boots (Buena Vista Pictures, PG-13)

Ejiofor’s Lola is a drag queen who always has the right answer for everything.

 

How far would you go to save the family business? In Kinky Boots, this is the question Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) is forced to answer when his father passes away. Not only does Charlie inherit the family shoe business, but he gets all of the problems and debt associated with the business, as well.

With a failing shoe factory to sort out, Charlie’s life takes a dramatic turn when his fate intersects with Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a larger-than-life female impersonator. As fate would have it, Lola is a big girl who just happens to serve as the inspiration for a shoe line that could save the struggling shoe factory.

Taking some advice from one of his employees, Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts), Charlie finds his niche market: men who wear women’s shoes. The rest of the movie deals with Charlie resurrecting his family business while the workers and Lola are forced to learn about acceptance, tolerance, and fierceness.

Based on true events, the story is a heartwarming tale to a fault. Director Julian Jarrold manages to tell the story well, but he underestimates the audience. Even though the plot is predictable enough to figure out the ending way ahead of time, the actors are able to do a decent enough job in their portrayals to keep the audience interested.

Edgerton and Potts did a bang-up job with their stereotypical performances, but the real star of the flick was without a doubt Ejiofor. Equally beautiful as a man and a woman, Ejiofor never ceases to amaze me with his brilliant talent. Having loved him in 2002’s Dirty Pretty Things, I was impressed with his ability to shine without making his fellow actors appear drab.

The main problem with the story was the overworked stereotype of the unflappable, all-knowing drag queen. Like Patrick Swayze’s Vida Boheme in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Rusty Zimmerman in Flawless, Ejiofor’s Lola is a drag queen who always has the right answer for everything. Maybe things are different in the United Kingdom, but the Midwest drag queens I know are a mess. They would sooner run off with every boot in the factory than become intertwined in someone else’s problems.

Kinky Boots is, in essence, a man-versus-his-environment story. While it’s interesting to watch the closed-minded factory workers learn to coexist with and even admire Lola, the best parts of the story happen when Charlie and Lauren hash out their feelings for one another. On top of the fact that it’s not particularly kinky in the literal sense, Kinky Boots might be the feel-good sleeper hit of the summer.

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