Hugo Weaving plays Tick, a drag queen who gets a phone call from his estranged wife (Sarah Chadwick) asking if he can head to Alice Springs and put on a show at her hotel. Figuring that he owes her at least that much, Tick persuades the younger and cattier Felicia (Guy Pearce) to join him, as well as an older transgender woman named Bernadette (Terence Stamp). It's not long until personalities clash, but the trio stick together when entering small towns on their journey and battling against the small-minded attitudes of residents with a selection of fine insults, fun song and dance numbers, and the ability to hold their drink.
Written and directed by Stephen Elliott, Priscilla (truncated for handiness) is one of those feelgood, fun movies that Australia seems to deliver every few years. It's a superb mix of memorable characters, a fun script, and a lively soundtrack punctuating events. I was initially a bit wary of the over the top nature of the performances from the three leads, but felt better when considering that all three aren't just portraying gay men, they're portraying veteran performers.
All three actors do very well, and all three are very different from one another. Weaving is the solid core of the film, in many ways. He's the reason for the whole thing, and he is the one who reveals the most about himself on the journey. Pearce is as brash and catty as needed, often to the point of others turning on him, but he also has a fearlessness that helps the others swallow their reservations and get on with things. Stamp is given, in some ways, the most important role, and he helps to make Bernadette a very real, savvy, tired, woman who is just hoping to take her mind off things after the recent loss of her younger partner. Bill Hunter also does very well, playing a man they meet on their travels who helps to keep the bus in working order (just).
Deftly moving through a range of emotions in each scene, tension can make way for comedy and even the most joyous scenes can have an undercurrent of sadness running through them, Priscilla manages to be thought-provoking, inspirational, and simply entertaining throughout. It serves as a reminder of the problems faced daily by members of the LGBT community and does so by making the three main characters unafraid (okay, maybe they can be a bit nervous) of putting on their best dresses, their best faces, and diving headlong into environments that don't always welcome them with open arms. Which is how more people would like to be. And if you can do that while accompanied by a toe-tapping bit of ABBA, all the better.
Get yourself a copy of the film here.
Americans can pick it up here.