• Drag Becomes Him – Movie Review

    DragBecomesHim_Poster-SMALL-e1431029411665

     

    “My goal as a drag queen is to be known as an artist and not just a female impersonator and really change people’s minds about what it means to be a man dressed up like a women.”
    Jinkx Monsoon

     

    June 4th, 2015  At the tender age of 23, it became glaringly obvious to anyone within Jerick Hoffer, a.k.a. Jinkx Monsoon’s circle of friends that he has the chutzpah and where-with-all to command the Broadway boards like a seasoned Tony Award winning veteran.  Here’s the rub – Jinkx is an unknown drag queen still living in Seattle.  Maybe it’s his affinity for strong hyper feminine muses the likes of Cat Women, Jessica Rabbit or the indomitable Meryl Streep in his note for note rendition of her character in Death Becomes Her that lit the fire.  Or maybe it’s the nurturing matriarchal tribe of women from his mother Deanne Hoffer to his aunt and grandmother that have always resonated with his inner core inspiring this sophisticate to stomp on convention in stilettos while redefining what it truly means to be a man in drag.  Either way, Filmmaker Alex Berry delivers an intimate, entertaining and utterly telling portrait by capturing this Portland born, Seattle raised fireball of theatrics in “DRAG BECOMES HIM.”

    “It will always be Monsoon season.”    RuPaul Charles

    At 3 years old Jerick wondered why he wasn’t a girl.  Already formulating a strong sense of identity that was comfortably ensconced in the female esthetic was never an issue.  Blocks turned to blush, hopscotch to heels and a simple neighbourhood game of hide-and-seek became a theatrical dress rehearsal for life.  And even when parental dysfunction took hold in the Hoffer household, Jerick’s overt manifestations were whole-heartedly embraced with the sort of love seldom found.  Before graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Theatrical Performance from Cornish College of the Arts the evolution of Jinkx’s next chapter started to take form.  It was this new proving ground that allowed him to incorporate the classroom fundamentals into every aspect of his drag performance.  From the power beauty looks of Joan Crawford and Lauren Bacall to the comedic sensibilities of Lucille Ball, Jinkx’s chameleon like transformations were not only photo ready but film worthy.

    “There is just a realization now that he’s come out and he’s telling you who he is . . . which is still the same person before he told you.”
    Jason Wikander, Jerick’s father

    Drag Becomes Him reads like the confessional musings from an industry insider that one would have over heard in the backstage dressing rooms on the set of films like Cabaret or Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz.  And like that coveted backstage pass Berry frames Jinkx within a hairs breath of the camera lens as our quaffed glamazon extolls both the virtues and pitfalls of his art form while preening, tweezing then squeezing into his latest incarnation.  For Jinkx, the art of drag is the methodical process of character creation that allows one to bring to the fore issues and perspectives not always welcomed in mainstream narratives.  And it is revealed through a myriad of drag performances we are privy to both on and off the stage that this Monsoon season extends the entire year.  From his time at SMYRC and the Baconshop Sessions to years of open mike nights, The Vaudevillians and Jinkx’s critically acclaimed performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the industry buzz was starting to take root in the west coast drag scene.  The years of dedication to his art in which he transformed and refined the cast of carefully crafted characters in his arsenal eventually caught the eye of the fiercest queen of them all.  Soon the national stage beckoned with an introduction to Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race.  With this national platform at his disposal, the stakes and their repercussion couldn’t have been greater.

    VERDICT 3.5 / 5  All things beautiful with just a hint of diabolical whimsy can sum up the drag persona of Jinkx Monsoon.  In Drag Becomes Him we gain our greatest insights not only with Jinkx but with a supporting cast of characters that all played their part in influencing his trajectory.  Berry wisely lets the cameras run on the family dynamic and in doing so reveals the most compelling story lines.  From his two younger brothers and the influences he made on them to his absent Sons of Anarchy looking father who shows his acceptance to the lifestyle –if just barely.  The wealth of stills, stock footage and pointed interviews seamlessly backfills an already colourful narrative.  The intensity with which Jinkx Monsoon’s boundless persona saturates the screen with his meta transformations and unique form of self-deprecating humour is the fuel that keeps the theatrical engine humming.  That being said, Drag Becomes Him is not without its faults.  The glaring omission of any meaningful dialogue regarding the violence perpetrated on the drag culture is an obvious oversight.  And this performance laden biopic at times ventures perilously into vanity territory at times as the spectacle of Jinkx hovers omnipresent throughout.  Still we are given enough of a showcase to appreciate the uniqueness as the drag world and the theatre world combine in the realness that is the Monsoon season.

    FINAL THOUGHT:  Jinkx will always be here to entertain you

    Genre:  Documentary,
    Year:  2014
    Country:  USA
    Language:  English
    Director:  Alex Berry
    Producer(s):  Basil Shadid, Michael Strangeways, Jacob Leander
    Executive Producer(s):  Lara Sanderson, Jeff Sanderson, Billie Rain, Alix Kolar
    Director of Photography:  Alex Berry
    Runtime:  90 minutes
    Website:  http://www.dragbecomeshim.com/
    Cast:  Jeremy Wikander, Deanne Hoffer, Jason Wikander, Amanda Russel,  Zan Gibbs, Melissa Hoffer, Jessie Underhill, Marc Kenison, Brian Daniel Peters, Nick Sahoyah, Kevin Kauer, Jacob Hoffer,  Kenneth Lee, Michelle Visage, Benjimen Blair, Sylvia O’Stayformore, Richard Andriessen.
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