Normally I try to review up-to-date movies for my Tuesday post but today’s is a little different. Last night I went to Manchester to see Bianca Del Rio perform her ‘Blame it on Bianca del Rio’ tour. If you’ve been paying attention to my ‘Sunday Rundown’ posts over the past few years you’ll know that I’m a bit obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race. Bianca is definitely one of the greatest drag queens to win the show so I’ve been really excited to see her for months now. And it was a really good night and she was so funny. Brutal but funny. Completely not-PC but funny. Her humour offensive but completely over-the-top. It’s great in certain situations but I was never convinced that it would work in a film setting. Which is why it took me until last week to finally watch Hurricane Bianca. The film that was written and directed by Matt Kugelman to fully showcase Del Rio in all her glory. I’d seen it on Netflix for a really long time but was too afraid to see it. There was no way that I could see this going well.
Hurricane Bianca is the story of a gay man, Richard Martinez, who loses his job in a Texas school once they find out about his sexuality. In order to get revenge on the teachers and students who rejected him, Richard makes the decision to dress as a woman in order to get his job back. Bianca Del Rio, Richard’s drag persona, is a cutthroat and opinionated woman who lets everyone know what she thinks of them. Her major fight is with vice principal, Deborah Ward, and her daughter, Carly. In order to humiliate both women, Bianca plans to take the title of Teacher of the Year from under Carly’s nose. Will she able to prove herself to her students and the rest of the school in order to win the prize?
Hurricane Bianca is hardly an exciting and original premise but it does offer its star the chance to do what she does best. When Bianca is introduced we get to see her in all her glory. She’s sassy, brutal, and totally unconcerned with the consequences of her actions. It’s interesting to see the difference between Richard and Bianca but I felt that more could have been made of it. Everything happens so quickly. From Richard moving to Texas, to being fired, to becoming Bianca. Nothing is really explored and there is no sense that anyone is really bothered about the change in attitude. It’s all about getting her to say as many offensive things as possible.
But that’s not to say there isn’t an important message at the heart of this film. It has a great deal to say about the role of sexuality in today’s society. The way that Richard is treated is hardly a matter of fiction and it was writer/director Matt Kugelman’s aim to highlight the issue of employment discrimination. It also showcases the plight of gay teenagers in a ruthless and unforgiving High School community. It’s all very noble and I can’t argue with the underlying message but I have to wonder if it is dealt with in the best possible way? The point of the film is to present real issues in a funny way. Tick tick tick. However, the humour on show is the kind of nasty humour that Bianca is known for, which doesn’t seem like the most obvious thing to use to gain support for your message. I get that the bad guys needed to be taken down a peg or too but when your gay hero is spouting such awful notions you risk overshadowing your message.
Plus, a lot of the humour just doesn’t work. It’s all very obvious for the most part. Instead of a clever and insightful. It’s all very one note and mean, which is to be expected, but that doesn’t sit well with the schmaltzy, fairy tale ending. And ending that is so obvious you might as well not watch it. I really wanted to like this film because I love Bianca and I think it’s an important message. There is such a massive lack of subtlety that I ended up getting kind of annoyed. Aside from the star, who is playing herself, most of the performances are way over-the-top and start to grate after a while. And the appearances from Bianca’s fellow Drag Race alumni range from mediocre (Shangela and Willam) to super awkward (Joslyn and Alyssa). And RuPaul’s cameo is just distracting and unnecessary. These additions to the cast just feels like an easy way to cash in on Bianca’s post-Drag Race fame.
It’s not that Hurricane Bianca is a bad film. It’s an entertaining film with an important message. And it’s a good vehicle for its main star. The only problem is there seems to be no real effort to make a great film. It always feels as if the makers were just taking the easy option every time. They knew how to get the most attention and they pushed it. If this starred a less famous drag queen, then it wouldn’t have garnered the same attention. Hurricane Bianca is a film all about the woman in its title and, I have to admit, she flies in the role. It just would have been nice if there was something more exciting for her to work with.