Often I wonder if kids today have it easier than I did. Is there more tolerance out there among teenagers, or are kids going to be kids, with opinions unformed and at times misled? Either way, I am glad that movies like ‘Freak Show’ exist, because this movie celebrates being different, because in life being true to yourself makes a happy life. We should always be reminded of that.
This is Trudie Styler’s directorial debut, working from a script by Patrick Clifton and Beth Ragazio, and in case one doesn’t know, Styler is the wife of pop star Sting. Alex Lawther stars as Billy Bloom, a teenager who is ‘trans-fabulous,’ and of course where does he get his fabulosity from, but from Bette Midler who plays his mother (she gives a memorable star performance here in a small but important role) Billy moves from Connecticut to a generic red state, where star cheerleaders quote Donald Trump. And on his first day, he dresses like Boy George, much to the shock of his schoolmates. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the student body, and he gets beaten up shortly. The star football player (super cute Ian Nelson) forms an unlikely friendship with him, but their friendship is tested when Billy sets out to run for Homecoming Queen, against said Trump-quoting villain.
There’s a lot going here, and it is matched visually. You are never bored with the beautiful things on screen and there are enough distractions to steer you away from realizing there isn’t much plot here. But there’s enough to make it very interesting. There are great performances all around, although a slightly chunky Abigail Breslin doesn’t quite fit the villainy homecoming queen nemesis (Surely a red state version would be suffering from anorexia) There are nice casting touches, like John McEnroe as the gritty physical education teacher, and Laverne Cox as the reporter assigned to cover the homecoming queen competition. Lawther is quite fin as Billy, although I feel so much for the friendship with the cute football player – surely he will fall in love him, and it will be unrequited, and will truly not end well for Billy, but sure those are just my projections here. Overall, I still recommend the movie – it has quite a few funny and touching moments, and as I said before, the message of inclusion and tolerance cannot be stressed enough, especially in these Trump times.