Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of RuPaul’s reality game-show, drag has become increasingly present in the public eye. Once an underground LGBT culture, drag is now in most households, in our music, and also in our cinema.
Of course, drag has been in films since the creation of cinema with popular movies such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, With Love Julie Newmar becoming cult classics. Now it is part of the mainstream, we can expect more and more movies about drag culture, such as this charming new release.
Directed by Thorn Fitzgerald and starring Jackie Weaver, Stage Mother revolves around conservative mother Maybelline who has been estranged from her son after he came out as gay. Sadly, after his death, Maybelline heads to San Francisco to run his bar, Pandora’s Box. Whilst there, Maybelline has to confront her own prejudices whilst getting closer to her son’s bereaved partner Nathan and drag performer Joan of Arkansas.
Jackie Weaver is a wonderful actress. No matter what material she is given, Weaver shines on screen. Here, she has to balance a previous close-minded woman whose world view is getting larger. Straight-talking, Maybelline is able to aid those within this new place whilst coming to terms with her grief over the death of her son and the fact they were estranged for so long. There are great other players such as Adrian Grenier as Nathan, newcomer Allister MacDonald as John, and a lovely appearance by Lucy Liu.
Stage Mother is a nice movie. It is not great nor is it terrible but it sits in the middle of the road with quaint ideas and lots of glitter. The movie works on the premise that people can change and grow and evolve. Though it may seem naïve, there is a golden idea here that if people were just nice to one another, and understanding, then the world would be a happier place. It’s a warming message staged with sparkles and spotlights.
However, the movie suffers from an uneven tone. Stage Mother tries to cover topics such as drug addiction and consent but it all feels like a ham-fisted attempt to relevant, rather than an exploration of these themes. It takes away from the centric drama; this mother who has had her life and ideals reshaped for the better, despite it coming from a tragic loss.
The glitz, glam, and generous spirit of Stage Mother is enough to watch. Inside Pandora’s Box is a whole new brighter world and if that takes you away from this gloomy reality for even a little while, then it is has done its job. Like any good Stage Mother would.