UPDATE: Screens at the 40th Anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on Friday, July 22nd at 8pm at The Ford. Screening preceded by live performances from Alaska, Laganja Estranja, Kelly Mantle and Jordan M Green!
With the enormous popularity of drag, and the seemingly never-ending production line of RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, we’ve been subjected to the good, the bad, and the ugly of drag movies over the last few years. The new dramedy, God Save The Queens which received its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival 2022, easily makes its way to the front of the pack.
Four drag queens get forced to attend a series of evening therapy sessions together. Gigi (Jordan Michael Green) is an aspiring drag queen desperate for her big break. Marmalade (a brilliant performance by Kelly Mantle) is a seasoned queen struggling to find her space among the younger, fresher talent. Then there’s duo Rita (Jay Jackson aka Laganja Estranja) and Stevie (Justin Andrew Honard aka Alaska Thunderfuck), a former successful drag rock double-act who split acrimoniously and are reuniting under duress.
Told through a series of vignettes bookended by the therapy sessions, each queen’s story is laid out; what led them to therapy, and the impact it’s having on them right now. Over the course of a few days, regular life continues with therapy sessions under the night sky, as the queens find their worlds changing for the better in unexpected ways.
Written and directed by Jordan Danger, God Save The Queens (expanded from her own short film Marmalade) rises above the pack of cash-in drag films by having a unique storyline and drawing genuinely great performances out of the on screen talent. As much as this is a campy, drag comedy, it’s also a solid drama about drag-life; the grift, the pressure, the heartache, and the bullshit the queens have to deal with.
Each of the leads carries their own sequined weight when it comes to the drama. Alaska and Laganja manage to be both poignant and hilarious in the same scene as they awkwardly confront their issues on camera for a talent TV show. Mantle proves they should be on Hacks, as they blend classic comedy with some cutting cathartic rage. While Green’s exasperation and desperation bubbles over as he loses it at a pair of teens on the street while trying to promote his show, highlights the awkward relationship between the art, history, and the commerce of drag.
Around these four leading queens are a cast of supporting performances that cut against the expected grain. Michelle Visage plays it completely straight as a cold talent scout, Peter Facinelli plays the hetero owner of a drag bar and Luenell leads the therapy sessions with otherworldly wisdom. And where the fuck did the goddess Kimberley Crossman come from (jokes, I know she comes from New Zealand), she absolutely steals her scenes with razor-sharp timing. Among the other drag performers on screen you’ll catch Vicki Vox and Drag Race faves Manila Luzon and Honey Davenport.
The ending is abrupt, comically so. And the storylines never really come together outside of the construct of the therapy sessions, but the whole is so much more than just the sum of these parts. God Save The Queens is a refreshingly fun and frank piece of drag cinema that’s well worth your time.
By Chad Armstrong
God Save The Queens received its world premiere at Tribeca Festival 2022.
Screens at the 40th Anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on Friday, July 22nd at 8pm at The Ford. Screening preceded by live performances from Alaska, Laganja Estranja, Kelly Mantle and Jordan M Green.