Drag Becomes Him starts out by posing some interesting questions about gender and performance. It then sets these questions aside to focus exclusively on the life of its subject, Jerick Hoffer/Jinkx Monsoon.
A trained actor with a great voice and an entertaining self-deprecating sense humour, Hoffer might be a fabulous performer. But honestly, his life story just isn’t that interesting. The interviews with his mother, father and two brothers paint a portrait of an incredibly supportive family that has always embraced Hoffer’s identity as a gay man and a drag queen. Some difficulty is hinted at, but director Alex Berry just rushes past any conflict in favour of the spectacle that is Jinkx Monsoon.
There really isn’t anything new here—the story being told is one that anyone who watched Jinkx’s run on RuPaul’s Drag Race is familiar with. The entire piece is very much a manufactured showcase for Jinkx, which would be fine, except its packaged as a kind of tell-all, intimate life story. The only moments that really ring true are the interviews with Hoffer’s parents, who reveal much more than Hoffer ever does as he hides behind the persona that he has created.
That’s not to say the film isn’t entertaining. It totally is. Jinkx is a fantastic character who knows how to work a crowd. However, it would have been nice to have more information about the creation of the Jinkx Monsoon persona and a discussion of drag culture in general.
It’s telling that the Q&A following the film’s Inside Out Festival premiere presented a great deal more substance than the film itself. Jerick/Jinkx is an extremely intelligent and articulate individual who has thought a great deal about the performance of gender and identity. Jinkx is clearly not a haphazard or spontaneous persona. She was carefully crafted with a great deal of thought and time.
During the film’s introduction, Jinkx said that Berry had made a film that, while about her, felt universal, and in some ways, this is the film’s biggest fault. Putting aside the fact that Hoffer is a gay drag queen, his life has been fairly conventional.
Drag Becomes Him had the potential to be an interesting look into drag culture. Instead, it is little more than a vanity project. At least it carries, like its subject, decent entertainment value.
Amanda is covering the 2015 Inside Out Festival live from Toronto. For more coverage of the festival, click here.