If the main picture in your head of Terence Stamp is as General Zod in the Superman films, prepare to have that image demolished. Same thing with Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce; you just can’t look at Agent Smith, Elrond, or Leonard Shelby the same way again after watching The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Stephan Elliott’s odyssey of a trio of drag queens across the Australian outback. This is a feel good film, all around, and it’s amusing that the subject of drag queens can be treated with such lightheartedness and levity, but that’s what ultimately makes the film work; that, and just about everything else about this one.
Technically, only Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce play drag queens; Terence Stamp’s character is a transsexual, who still nevertheless performs with the other two on occasion. Stamp is invited on a road trip with the pair to a distant venue, which he/she takes to get away from mourning a recent loss. The film thus turns into the ultimate buddy road movie, complete with shenanigans and sassy insults galore. First off, the performances were outstanding; I don’t know how Weaving and Pearce were able to so completely stretch out of their comfort zones with these characters, but they nailed it, particularly Pearce, who is a consistent scene-stealer. Stamp is much more muted and reserved with his character, but it’s still a hell of a role to play, and he throws himself into it when he needs to. I also liked the film’s music, or more specifically the soundtrack; the film uses well-known performance songs as the background (and foreground) music throughout the picture, and it creates quite the sense of dramatic flair, particularly when Guy Pearce is lip-syncing opera while riding atop the titular bus in a gigantic high heeled shoe. The cinematography was pretty decent; there was a lot, a LOT, of color used, but that was mostly thanks to the wardrobe and makeup of the main characters. And the costume design; where the hell do I begin. Seeing Hugo Weaving parade around an Australian town in an outfit made entirely of flip-flops is something I don’t think I’m going to forget anytime soon. That was one Academy Award (and the only one the film won) that was justly deserved.
Man, was this enjoyable. It doesn’t play to stereotypes (though the Filipino wife of the mechanic Bob did stretch that distinction quite a bit); instead, it humanizes the characters. They’re not just drag queens or transsexuals; they have inter-personal relationships, work and family stress, and jolly good times like anyone else does. They just do it with way more flash and splendor than us normal boring drones do, or really that should be legally allowable no matter what country you’re in. I had a great time watching this; it had a great plot, was well done overall, and the mood of the film was so likable that you really didn’t have any time to sit and poke around for flaws. That’s not to say this is a perfect film; I’m sure if I went through it again and put my mind to it I might come up with a few. But I wouldn’t even want to. This was too much of a crowd-pleaser, albeit an unconventional one, and it solidly won me over.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10