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Leave It on the Floor

Posted by martinteller on April 26, 2014

Brad (Ephraim Sykes) is thrown out of his home by his mother (Metra Dee) when she catches him looking at gay porn.  In a convenience store, he is drawn to Carter (Andre Myers) and the two flirt by picking each other’s pockets (that’s not a euphemism, they literally steal each other’s wallets).  Brad follows Carter into a nightclub, where he is exposed to the ballroom scene: men, women, and everything in between having runway battles, trying to win trophies for their “houses” based on their looks, style, attitude and moves.  Brad is recruited into the “House of Eminence” by the oversexed Princess (Phillip Evelyn) as a potential walker in the “sex siren” category.  Besides Brad and Carter, the House of Eminence consists of schoolboy walker Duke (Cameron Koa), the “pregnant” drag queen Eppie Durall (James Alsop) and the mother of the house, Queef Latina (Barbie-Q), still coasting on the success of her glory days.  But the introduction of Brad into this tight-knit surrogate family instantly causes waves, especially when Carter and Princess start competing for his affection.

I can’t speak to the verisimilitude of this movie.  My exposure to the ballroom scene is limited to the “Vogue” video, the trailer for Paris Is Burning, seeing a couple of performances by local drag queens, and assorted random pop references.  I know nothing about the culture and won’t pretend to know whether or not this is an accurate representation.  I will say it gives me some pause when a film entirely about the black experience within this culture (to the point that one of the songs is even about “Black Love”) is directed, written and produced by two white guys.  But I will assume that Sheldon Larry and Glenn Gaylord have some exposure to it, or at the very least did some research.  Besides, one doesn’t watch a musical for its sense of realism.

Nor does one watch a musical for narrative sophistication, but it should be said that this film is somewhat lacking in that area.  The story flits around without making any of its components feel very strong, or very fresh.  It jumps haphazardly between the love triangle, Queef’s incarcerated husband, the ballroom competition, and a big ol’ Plot Device incident that occurs late in the film.  It’s hard to really care too much any of these elements since none are very carefully developed.  Likewise, Brad isn’t particularly well-drawn as a character, and as the ostensible hero of the movie he gets overshadowed by the more intriguing Princess, Carter and Queef (all fine performances).  While I’m griping, “Queef Latina” is too lazy a pun to even have camp value.

But really, we watch musicals for the song and dance, and here the film acquits itself quite nicely.  Lyrically it could be stronger, but the songs are mostly pretty catchy (especially the title track and “Justin’s Gonna Call”) and integrated well into the dramatic action.  And the choreography is exciting and imparts a feeling of the rush this subculture gives to its participants.  With flashy costuming and cinematography, there is an irresistible energy to the musical sequences.  The film also has some heart that’s hard to deny.  Maybe the script could use a little work, but there’s obvious affection for these characters and their world on the fringes of society.  If nothing else, it’s worth seeing for the spectacle, and the endearing performances by Myers, Evelyn and Barbie-Q.  Rating: Good (71)

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