After his dad passes away, Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) sets about rescuing the ailing Northampton shoe factory which has been the pride and joy of the family for four generations. With a large order cancelled, Charlie begins to feel that all is lost and starts retrenching staff. On a short business trip London, a chance encounter with Soho's flamboyant drag star, Lola [christened Simon] (Chiwetel Ejiofor), gives him an idea that could prove the last chance for the factory and its employees. Kinky women's boots made especially for men like Lola ... and designed by Lola. But is Northampton open minded enough for the likes of Lola?
Review by Louise Keller:
A crowd pleasing comedy that puts the conservative world of a Northampton shoe factory next to the outrageous flamboyance of transvestites, Kinky Boots is entertaining, despite ending up somewhat meeker than its title might suggest. But there's no half-way measures for star Chiwetel Ejiofor, who sparkles in a wonderfully controlled performance as Lola, belting out tunes in sequined frocks, but choking when walking into a room dressed as himself. What Lola wants, Lola gets, even if it means treading on hot emotional coals to get it, and Ejiofor never lets his gender-bending, stiletto toting cabaret queen become a caricature. Pathos and heart lie under even the most lurid of costumes and wigs.
As unlikely as it may seem to find common ground between Lola and Joel Edgerton's mild-mannered Charlie Price, both men embark on a journey that results in the realisation of 'what makes a man.' Edgerton slips into the Northampton accent as easily slipping into a well-fitting shoe. Charlie has always struggled under the weight of his father's expectations and is finally forced into finding his own direction - and the confidence to go with it. It's not until Sarah-Jane Potts's outstpoken Lauren makes Charlie look beyond the obvious, when the opportunity to create a niche market changes everything.
Based on a true story, with a script co-written by Calendar Girls screenwriter Tim Firth, it is hard to imagine two more diametrically opposed worlds than those belonging to Lola and Charlie. There is a juicy comedic opportunity the first time Lola visits the drab shoe factory (dressed in showy turquoise and stilettos to match), and the director Julian Jarrold makes the most of it. When Nick Frost's no-nonsense Don beckons to Lola, patting his lap enticingly, we are simply waiting to see what happens next. And we are not disappointed.
The story takes its time to find its way, but it's an enjoyable journey that winds up in a showy finale on a catwalk in Milan. You can take your maiden aunt to see Kinky Boots - like Calendar Girls - there is nothing to offend anyone in this gentle comedy that explores our own sense of self and self-worth.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's cine-spirit not too far from Strictly Ballroom, Kinky Boots is a well crafted comedy that wears a solid pair of dramatic shoes to take us down the road to an entertainment with something to say. Its messages of courage and tolerance are wrapped in some recognisable devices, but it's so darned engaging we don't mind a bit of familiarity. And like Baz Luhrmann with Strictly Ballroom, Julian Jarrold picks just the right songs and times them with great flair, firming the film's emotional grip on our hearts and minds.
Australian actor Joel Edgerton does a fine job with Charlie, Northampton accent included, and Chiwetel Eijofor is the best and meatiest singing & dancing drag queen since Tim Curry gave himself over to pleasure in The Rocky Horror Show. The story of a traditional shoe factory falling on hard times in the English provinces would not normally warrant the movie treatment, although five unemployed workers in Newcastle once did and they went The Full Monty with it. (This story is also based on real events, which is perhaps why it's so engaging.) Here, the sparkle - and the ready contrast with a provincial shoe factory - again comes from showbiz, albeit this time in an oblique way. A broken heel on a lady's boot worn by Lola, an entertainer, sets off a train of thought that opens the possibilities of new marketing direction for a shoe factory and the workers.
But some of these workers don't accept an outsider like Lola, and the screenplay teases out a barely credible scenario to make this part of the emotional territory for the film. Already weighed down with a father who deserts his son (was Simon, is Lola) and a father who dies on his son (Charlie's), plus a rocky relationship with the girlfriend, the film is in danger of getting too laboured. Unless Lola can perk things up - which Lola does, admirably. A few strong musical numbers, in drag, lend the film the necessary fuel to take off and leave the gritty reality behind. The screenplay is a bit clumsy here and there, but the cast whiz past it all with bravura and sincerity, dragging us along (pardon the pun) until the payoff climax.
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CHIWETEL EJIOFOR and JOEL EDGERTON INTERVIEWS
KINKY BOOTS (M)
CAST: Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah-Jane Potts, Jemima Rooper, Linda Bassett, Nick Frost, Robert Pugh
PRODUCER: Nick Barton, Peter Ettedgui, Suzanne Mackie
DIRECTOR: Julian Jarrold
SCRIPT: Geoff Deane, Tim Firth
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eigil Bryld
EDITOR: Emma H. Hickox
MUSIC: Adrian Johnston
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alan MacDonald
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 2, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
VIDEO RELEASE: July 12, 2006