This review is for a film originally viewed at the 20th Annual Tallgrass Film Festival. WD;ED will update when the film becomes available either in theatres or on VOD.
There’s a great world living within the drag performer community that’s eager to be explored outside of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” has placed a spotlight on the struggles of the queer community in 80s New York City while films like A Fantastic Woman detail the struggle of everyday life for these individuals. A recent trend in film and television centered around LGBTQIA+ individuals has been to skew comedic, utilizing humor to discuss the frustration and pain felt when all they want is to exist like anyone else.
God Save the Queens details the experiences of four drag queens living on the West Coast, each searching for success as they work through life in performance. Each arrives at a serenity retreat for a different reason, but as they’re confronted with their own struggles and positions they’re also led through their revelations by what appears to be…a supernatural being?
There’s a lot to love in this film, from the energy between some of the performers to the idea that they exist in a world where their performances and age restrictions are judged instead of their very existence in an ever-embracing America. This doesn’t exactly display the reality of a country that still has active political action meant to ban their very existence, but it’s a nice change of pace to see these performers display who they are without that on occasion. Suffering isn’t everything, and these performers are all living in vignettes that focus on their attempts at stardom (or even just leading a drag-themed Bingo night) instead of more traditional pain.
The entertainment factor of the performances carries the whole film, but Kelly Mantle in particular shines through some of the more calorie-free sections of the film. Mantle is tasked with being the focus of the most difficult throughline of the entire film, playing an aging queen under the persona Marmelade and desperate to get out of her nightly performances at a small-time club and her awareness of age standing in her way. There’s a stinging reality in that life, one that many a woman in entertainment has felt, and it is simply that if you age visibly no one will want you. Mantle’s final monologue is the highlight of the film, her bitter personality mixing with her comedic timing to carry God Save the Queens across the finish line on her back.
Jordan Danger’s debut film is not the bitter and savory taste of an IPA that so many crave but rather the light and citrusy flavor of a good Mexican lager. We need these sometimes, films that have fun with a community while serving more as entertaining stories than the darker and heavier offerings. I think both are necessary, and while God Save the Queens is far from perfect it’s a great time and one I can’t wait to show others.