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Girls Will Be Girls

Venus Envy

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In Richard Day's Girls Will Be Girls, a trio of actresses -- all portrayed by men -- negotiate the casting couches and the cruel rejections of a Hollywood career. But this is not your Bard's Shakespeare: In the 400 years or so since Elizabethan England, when playwrights like Wm. had to cast men in the roles of women, we've invented the words "drag" and "camp," and now Day has some fun with them in this -- to say the least -- offbeat movie.

 

Day's good-time gals are Evie (Jack Plotnick), a joyfully self-absorbed lush and slut (on abortions: "I've had more children pulled out of me than a burning orphanage") who looks and sounds just the wrong side of Phyllis Diller; Evie's roommate, Coco (Clinton Leupp), an unnatural redhead who cleans up their home, which is usually littered with cocktail glasses and cigarette butts from the long night before; and dangerously naïve Varla (Jeffery Roberson), busty and zaftig, the new girl in town, whose mother was once a famous actress, and who asks if people still get discovered at Schwab's. ("Yes," says Coco, "but mostly by cops in the men's room.")

 

Coco gets a dog when she concludes that she'll never have children (she had an abortion years ago and fell in unrequited love with Dr. Perfect). Evie has a hunky adult son, Stevie (Ron Mathews), who somehow has managed to grow up without a sense of humor. And Varla soon finds herself smitten with Stevie, who finds himself equally smitten with her. They meet at Evie's place, where Mom quickly announces that Stevie has a small penis. "When it comes to men," says Varla, "I look for what's on the inside." Evie replies: "Well, you're in luck, 'cause his dick practically is."

 

I have to confess that I usually get bored with drag for drag's sake -- which, according to Susan Sontag (and others), is for the sake of ridiculing gender roles in the dominant culture. The actors in Girls Will Be Girls play their drag straight, but that's not what's so good about it. This movie is freakin' hilarious! The quips aren't really double entendres because they only have one meaning, and it's snappishly clear. The men, of course, are necessary ciphers, and the "plot" -- which Day breaks up into vignettes and set pieces, with a title card announcing each one (a la Frasier) -- has a sort of soap-opera-cum-melodrama arc.

 

Day opens his movie with a faux show tune, decorates his sets in garish cartoon colors, and parodies all the usual suspects -- movies, masculinity, domesticity, obesity, rape, etc. etc. His women are Ab Fab, only sans the Fab. They're Hairspray, except their Dippity-do dippity-didn't. They're Hedwig minus even the inch. They're -- well, you get the idea. They're a mess. But they're a funny mess, and with a movie that's a concise 79 minutes in length, you certainly can't accuse their creator of being a size queen. Three stars

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