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My Gay Toronto - Bellini's 8 1/2

Hurricane Bianca: Bianca Del Rio is a force of nature in a heartwarming farcical tour de force

by PAUL BELLINI-


In many interviews (including one just before the Inside Out world premiere of Hurricane Bianca) Roy Haylock/Bianca Del Rio, gleefully trashed the career aspirations of fellow RuPaul's Drag Race survivors,

They think that with the Drag Race formula that everybody puts out an album, whether it's shitty or not, and everybody makes a video whether they've lost their money or not, and that's not really the exposure I want.

And why not? Instead of a "shitty" video, De Rio starred in a feature film. And not just a film, a good old-fashioned vehicle for her unique talents. Hurricane Bianca is a feel-good film - glossy, camp and very gay - that may not herald the arrival of a new screen goddess, but is a lot of fun and a showcase for Del Rio.

A nerdy New York City schoolteacher takes a job as a science teacher in a hellish Texas high school. He is expected to teach creationism and is then fired for being gay. Mild-mannered Richard Martinez transforms into deliciously nasty Bianca Del Rio and gets revenge for queers of all stripes. Though the plot is full of continuity holes and uneven tonal shifts, once force of nature Del Rio struts onto the screen, Hurricane Bianca soars. Her big expressive clown eyes and razor sharp timing with a line turn a trifling gay/drag fantasy into a literal comic hurricane.

While Del Rio gets the biggest share of one-liners and insults - "“Let me make one thing clear, Debbie. I’m fucking this cat. You just hold the legs!”- Willam Belli and DJ Pierce (both also Drag Race alumni) as the dim-witted best friends have the funniest dialogue. They are the tragic twinks, aging out disgracefully and cluelessly, and they dive into gay stereotypes while gleefully mocking them. When Pierce (The X-FilesGlee, Bones) translates Del Rio's explanations into gay examples for Belli (Nip/Tuck, CSI, The New Normal and the upcoming Kicking Zombie Ass for Jesus) to understand, it is laugh out loud hilarious. They should have a sitcom.

Denton Blane Everett transforms from the redneck villain into a credible sex symbol (a shirtless and butt-baring scene help) intrigued with sexual experimentation instead of just racking up conquests, with little help from the script. Bianca Leigh and Kaleb King are the centerpieces of two potentially mawkish sub-plots that turn out to be quite touching and affirming. RuPaul cameos competently as a weatherman but Alan Cummings recycles previous villains and Margaret Cho is marginally less embarrassing than in her Golden Globes appearance.

When director Matt Kugelman pumps up the camp, Hurricane Bianca takes on the giddy flavour of John Waters at his most mainstream. Unfortunately the leads are also encouraged to camp it up and act in high drag mode. For Del Rio it works, the more Joan Crawford the better, but Haylock and Rachel Dratch (SNL, 30 Rock, Bob's Burgers, Inside Amy Schumer) create caricatures instead of characters, telegraph instead of titillate. One of the running gags is that Haylock/Martinez is a failed stand-up comedian unless he drinks or dons drag. All the flailing, eyebrow arching and bits of business are for naught, the weather is flat until Hurricane Bianca blows in.

I wish Hurricane Bianca were getting a theatrical release and could be viewed in a crowded theatre. The many laughs and multitudes of chuckles would be amplified by the energy of a bevy of bitchy queens and happy campers. But streamed in one's home, Hurricane Bianca is a gay old time and, like Martinez/Haylock, adding drinks or drag will only make it more so.

Hurricane Bianca is available on DVD or streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, iTunes and Wolfe Video on Demand. wolfondemand.com


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