“Nails that stick out get hammered down,” William Bloom warns his teenage son Billy (Alex Lawther). But Billy was born to be fabulous, and no amount of parental warnings or even outright queer bashings can change that, in Trudie Styler’s effervescent directorial debut. Sent to live with Dad while Mom (Bette Midler) is in rehab, Billy feels like a fish — or, better yet, mermaid (he does have an outfit for that) — out of water in a small Southern high school where the student body worships football, Christ, and conformity. An unexpected friendship with football star Flip (Ian Nelson) and an alliance with Blah Blah Blah (AnnaSophia Robb) ease the isolation of the self-described “transvisionary gender obliviator” somewhat, but they don’t lessen the increasingly violent bullying. Legendary club kid and Party Monster scribe James St. James’s young adult novel comes to dazzling life in this lively coming-of-age drama, a glorious and defiantly optimistic ode to all things Gaga, Mercury and Wilde.
Lawther (who played the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) is pitch-perfect as the irrepressible Billy fighting for his right to simply be himself — specifially, to be a candidate for homecoming queen, a move that pits him against cheerleader and school queen bee Lynette (a squeaky clean, mean Abigail Breslin). Midler’s boozy, lovable wreck of a mom, and fun cameos by Laverne Cox (as anchorwoman on the spot) and John McEnroe (as a screaming athletic coach, naturally) round out a delightful cast and film, one that buoyantly balances the poignancy of Billy’s blossoming queer identity with affirming and hilarious comedy.
— PAM GRADY
This film contains a scene depicting homophobic violence.
Peaches Christ Productions
- Website: Facebook
- Premiere Status: US