TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Group therapy in the canyon is the framing device for writer-director Jordan Danger’s God Save The Queens. Distracted, distraught, and despondent, four drag performers arrive at a retreat in the hills run by Hugo (Joaquim de Almeida) and Gail (Rachelle Carson-Begley) to sit and recount their various stories, each learning something along the way. The comedy reaches some giddy moments of inspiration along with sincere moments of earned drama. Unfortunately, while a fun ride, the film isn’t an all-out success on account of the filmmaker’s admirably ambitious but convoluted narrative and inconsistent gags.
The movie opens with GiGi/Klein (Jordan M. Green) attempting to land a job while trying to promote his one-woman drag show. We jump to the stunning Marmalade (Kelly Mantle) as she’s preparing to leave for work on the eve of a very important performance. We next land at a Drag Bingo venue, where Stevie (Alaska Thunderfuck) and Rita (Laganja Estranja) have a nasty tension yet are invited by a producer to reform their act for a healthy sum.
That’s when we land at the retreat in the hills. Having put the narrative ahead of the framing device, Danger muddles the timeline a bit too much, and we have to work to figure out where we are. We get there, though, and a rhythm is found as the stories of GiGi, Marmalade, Stevie, and Rita play out as told by each queen around the meditation circle.
“…four drag performers arrive at a retreat in the hills…”
God Save The Queens excels when it tells a singular story. GiGi’s endearing relationship with her doting mom Eloise (Ellen Gerstein), is adorable. Marmalade’s journey from aging queen to a recognized performer is wonderful. Stevie and Rita’s discovery that they are better as a pair is hilarious. Honestly, they could all have been their own brilliant feature narratives. But as segments in an anthology, they feel diluted. To their credit, the performers nail it. Green sets a lovely tone as the fem queen looking for a break. Mantle is heartfelt and poignant. While Estranja was amazing, it was a disservice to pair them with Thunderfuck, who owns every scene she is in.
All of that said, some of the cameos far outshine the main cast. Luenell pops into the meditation circle credited as God to move the story along. RuPaul’s Drag Race mainstay Michelle Visage plays Liv, a talent scout far too preoccupied with her phone to do her job. Manila Luzon amusingly chews the scenery as Kiwi, one of Marmelade’s friends. However, none of them compare to Kimberley Crossman’s bit role as Harlowe. Her scene as the put-upon mega star was pure gold and worth the price of admission all on its own.
Jordan Danger’s God Save The Queens is an accomplished piece of comic fluff that almost gets past the catty, quippy, campy story about drag performers to deliver something more. No, it doesn’t always land that death drop but gets closer than other movies have in finding the balance of comedy, pathos, and comradery in the drag world. As such, it proves a fun, if uneven, watch.
God Save The Queens screened at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…an accomplished piece of comic fluff..."