Saturday, 26 September 2015

DVD Review: Kinky Boots

"The factory that started the century providing a range of footwear for men will go into the next century providing footwear for... a range of men."

I don’t know what I was doing in 2005 but it wasn’t watching Kinky Boots. I don’t really remember deciding that I didn’t want to see Julian Jarrold’s film but for whatever reason, it has remained on my unwatched list but now, a decade on and with its musical adaptation now gracing the London stage, I finally got round to giving it a whirl. And it made for a fascinating watch, especially in light of having seen it in the theatre, that slightly different iteration of the story playing out in quite a different way.

The main thing I took from Tim Firth and Geoff Deane’s writing, inspired by a true story, is that struggling shoe-factory owner Charlie isn’t actually that likeable a character. Perhaps it was partly Joel Edgerton’s muted performance but there’s something a little bleak about him, his single-mindedness coming across more brutally here especially in his treatment of fiancée Nicola (as if anyone could do that to the lovely Jemima Rooper), thus making it hard to see why Sarah-Jane Potts’ Lauren would be quite so keen to step into her shoes. 

And whilst Chiwetel Ejiofor is eye-catchingly good (and surprisingly tuneful) as Lola, without the vibrancy of Cyndi Lauper’s original score and the accompanying Angels (barely present here), the character doesn’t feel edgy enough. You really notice that Lola isn’t allowed to be properly sexual, one can imagine film execs wanting her to be neutered so to speak, which throws the balance off a little, especially as there’s then little agency left in a character whose crucial act of forgiveness feels scarcely earned.

There’s good work elsewhere in the film though. Linda Bassett, Joanna Scanlan and Kellie Bright are striking as the factory-workers who reluctantly accept the changes needed to keep the company alive, Nick Frost is the boorish fight challenger (though arm-wrestling not boxing here), and Leo Bill pops up as a shady work rival and Geoffrey Streatfeild cameos as a love rival but without caring too much about Charlie, it’s hard to be too engaged with his fate. Stick with the musical I’d say.


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