Directed by: #ElmerJHoward
Written by: #MelissaMartin
There's a good idea somewhere in here, the character arc set forth for Lucy, our protagonist is to conquer her personal crises and reclaim her identity through the empowering spectacle of drag. That seems to be the clear layout in Melissa Martin’s script for Kings and Queens, unfortunately, though the potential is never reached in this film. There is an utter lack of vision in the filmmaking that makes this story have no impact, the script has its fair share of issues alongside director Elmer J. Howard’s execution, quickly devolving into melodrama with its hasty resolutions. Leaving audiences with Lucy’s journey on screen having little authenticity thus making any larger thematic power diminish.
Though the execution of the story is flawed, there is a clear respect for the subject matter from Howard and Martin, with no diminutive humour or derogatory behaviour Kings and Queens feels designed to be a celebration of drag. Utilising Portland Maine’s actual drag scene from Blackstone’s bar to cameos from pageant winners Cherry Lemonade and Gigi Gabor, the filmmakers have the best intentions to recreate a perfectly authentic world to drop Lucy into. Though it doesn’t amount to much beyond mere set dressing as Howard’s direction can’t create a cinematic atmosphere for Lucy and the audience to be entranced by.
So much of Kings and Queens falls flat from scripting to cinematography, it's frustrating how the spirit of drag is disconnected from Howard's filmmaking. There is no vigour on the screen, it just feels like a Lifetime movie, with the eye-rolling melodrama robbing the realism of Lucy reconciling with herself and embracing a drag king persona. Lucy, a struggling young woman, living with her ex-girlfriend who after getting a job at Blackstones becomes interested in the drag scene. Emily Kokidko’s performance is initially appealing but diminishes as Martin’s script stumbles in laying out her character’s history and motivations. Kings and Queens doesn’t feel like a full journey for its characters, Lucy’s backstory with ex-girlfriend/roommate Harper and her strained relationship with her parents feel rushed and underdeveloped. Thomas Smallwood’s character Eric, who mentors Lucy's initial interest in drag culture has a good scene in sharing the appeal and struggles in creating a persona but we never see Lucy go through those revelations for herself.
There is a conflict of course but Lucy’s endeavour into drag comes across more as a distraction from her troubles than a soul searching journey. Whether that was Howard’s intention or not, Kings and Queens just cannot shake the feeling that something is missing. It lacks a cinematic identity and underwhelms in its portrayal of this euphoric culture despite its welcomed representation.