To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar


Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

In the wake of Patrick Swayze's untimely death a lot is being said about his grace and seemingly unpretentious masculinity - he was a dancer and a gymnast, and yet he retained a sort of "masculine mystique" that many stars seem to feel they must work hard to maintain.

His role in this movie more or less exemplifies this. Alongside Wesley Snipes as Miss Noxeema Jackson ("Jesse's daughter", she quips to a credulous audience) and John Leguizamo as the young and inexperienced "drag princess" ChiChi Rodriguez, Swayze cuts a dash as Miss Vida Boheme, joint winner of a New York drag queen of the year contest. She and her co-victor Noxeema win a trip to California to compete in the national contest and, inspired by a signed photo of Julie Newmar, decide to take ChiChi along in order to mould her into the top-notch drag queen they know she can be. They set off in a beaten-up cadillac for a road trip across America.

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The film touches on some of the problems that a trio of drag queens making their way across middle America might face - including ridicule, staring and attempted assault. However, this is primarily a fantasy film and so nothing too dreadful happens. It's the sort of film that is meant to make you believe in the inherent goodness of mankind - if you are a good person it will shine through and protect you from harm. A couple of frilly song-and-dance moments give a little extra magical realism to the story.

As far as pacing goes the film gets off to a glitzy, exciting start: from the bright lights of New York; off on an exciting trip in a beautiful vintage car with only a photo of a glamourous actress for inspiration. Unfortunately it grinds to a halt surprisingly quickly and becomes some kind of Magical Tranny story in some town in the middle of nowhere.

The performances are impressive. It lacks the manly little winks and elbow-nudges that one might have expected from the masculine leads - Snipes and Swayze do a very good job bringing to life Vida and Noxeema and Leguizamo is truly excellent - he inhabits and fleshes out the character of ChiChi to an astonishing degree. I didn't feel that any of the leads were meant to be laughed at for their gender presentation - in fact, the ridicule is reserved for the narrow-minded villain of the piece, a small-town sheriff with wandering hands and a macho attitude. Speaking of which, there were a few scenes with said Sheriff that don't quite mesh with the lighthearted tone of the film - a few moments that jarred me out of the story. This, more than the frivolity, hindered my immersion into the world of the film.

Racial issues are not ignored, given the possibly problematic dynamics involved with a white woman effectively taking charge of a latina and a black woman. While at times the racially-charged verbal sparring gets quite heated, I felt it to be fairly equally distributed amongst the three leads. Of course, for people with different sensibilities, your mileage may vary. I generally enjoyed this film, watching it as I did at 5am following the news of Patrick's death. It's a feel-good movie about unconventional people, and deserves to be remembered as a high point in Swayze's career.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2009
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To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar packshot
Three drag queens get stuck in a small town en route to a big competition.
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Director: Beeban Kidron

Writer: Douglas Carter Beane

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo, Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, Arliss Howard, Jason London, Chris Penn

Year: 1995

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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