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Australia 1994
Directed by
Stephan Elliott
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert

This box office success about three drag queens (Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp) travelling across the Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus (the Priscilla of the film’s title) to strut their stuff, followed hard on the heels of the hugely successful Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Muriel's Wedding (1994) two films which found the poetry in the Australian  vernacular.

Stephan Elliott’s film was also a hit but it reduced the authentic verve of its predecessors to a crowd-pleasing feel-good formula, mixing Downunder stereotypes with disco songs and feather boas galore in a camped-up road movie.

The film provided breakthrough screen appearances for Weaving and Pearce with the latter particularly good whilst behind the scenes, Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel picked up Oscars for Costume Design (it remains a favoured theme at Mardi Gras time) and Brian J. Breheny's widescreen photography makes very good use of the Australian landscape.  What more could you want?  Well, a good script would have made a big difference.  The skills of the performers and the behind-the-scenes crew are unable to mask the banality of Elliot’s dialogue and a subplot which has Bill Hunter’s Outback mechanic falling for Terence Stamp’s superannuated drag queen is a frock too far (although a scene with the mechanic’s “entertainer” wife doing her party trick is probably the funniest in the film).

Somewhat surprisingly. when its director tried to outdo himself with his next feature, Welcome To Woop Woop, he nose-dived into a lengthy career freefall that did not end until 2008’s Easy Virtue although it plummeted to a new low with A Few Best Men (2011).




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