Sarah-Jane Potts, Joel Edgerton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Kinky Boots (2005)


(director: Julian Jarrold; screenwriters: Tim Firth/Geoff Deane; cinematographer: Eigil Bryld; editor: Emma Hickox; music: Adrian Johnston; cast: Joel Edgerton (Charlie Price), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Lola), Sarah-Jane Potts (Lauren), Ewan Hooper (George), Nick Frost (Don), Linda Bassett (Mel), Jemima Rooper (Nicola); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Nicholas Barton/Suzanne Mackie/Peter Ettedgui; Miramax; 2005-UK)

“A tepid crowd-pleasing Brit comedy/drama that offers nothing fresh.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Kinky Boots is a made-by-the-numbers inspirational tale inspired by a true story (but not necessarily told the way it happened). It’s directed in The Full Monty vein by Julian Jarrold and written in a square way by Tim Firth and Geoff Deane, but is not even as good as that dull middlebrow film. Many of the same producers from the international box office hit “Calendar Girls” are involved with this project (for some reason it flopped only in the States). It serves as a tepid crowd-pleasing Brit comedy/drama that offers nothing fresh. But it offers bogus concerns for workers, and instead of kinky sex offers breezy and lightweight fluff.

The inept shlub Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) just inherited from his robust dad in the provincial midlands a traditional Northampton shoe factory heading for bankruptcy. While on a business trip to London Charlie accidentally bumps into cabaret star drag queen Simon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), also known as Lola, who is being mugged by homophobes in a dark alley. Telling Charlie that she broke a heel to her red stiletto boot, the businessman sniffs out the possibility of manufacturing a sturdy high heel for this niche market of cross-dressers and hires Lola as a designer consultant. This connects the underdog cross-dresser community with the underdog workers who fear losing their jobs, but are a bit apprehensive about the kinky world of drag queens. This plotline gives way to a contrived subplot of Charlie having second thoughts about his fiancée Nicola (Jemina Rooper), as he is taken with perky ideal worker Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts). The film loads everything up in favor of the sweetie-pie worker and for the longest time these clumsy scenes go forward. They only are broken by the lively strapping drag queen doing his bouncy cabaret numbers, including belting out ‘Whatever Lola Wants.’ It leads to a hot finale at a Milan fashion show taken over by the drag queens.

The film had no sex of its own and though it raises interest points about defining genders, it prefers to steer clear of touching that touchy subject with any seriousness. Instead it coyly uses the drag queens as sexless symbols of universal tolerance. These seemingly chaste queens save a town from financial ruin, play Cupid and pave the way for making the world a better place to live. We are boxed into believing how sweet it is to see the blue-collar workers and cross-dressers fighting for the same cause. In reality, the filmmaker could care less if that gooey ending is believed or not–the aim here is to have the viewer feel-good over such mindless entertainment.