Connie and Carla (review)

What a Drag

David Duchovny, why won’t you love me? I love you, and not just because you’re the best thing in Connie and Carla even if your devastating intelligence and wry wit is nowhere to be found and all we’re left with is that amazing smile. And even that’s not onscreen anywhere near enough.

Okay, I admit it: there’s a little teensy weensy bit of other stuff that’s kind of all right. Like how as a screen presence, Nia Vardalos is funny and down-to-earth and extremely charismatic, the kind of gal a gal might love to have as a best friend. But why, as a screenwriter, has she never met a bad joke she won’t repeat three times? Like:
“Shut up! Your voice is giving me…

A) …cramps!”
B) …mono!”
C) …shingles!”
D) all of the above

I mean, what does that even mean, “Your voice is giving me mono?” Why is Vardalos stuck in junior high school, where for one brief shining moment in the eighth grade, on one early autumn day for three minutes between second-period social studies and third-period gym, the concept of mononucleosis is amusing? What mothers of thirty- or fortysomething gals — that is, like the moms of Nia’s and Toni Collette’s characters here — would squeal anything like “Are you prostitutes?!” when their daughters reveal they have a source of income. It’s not like Nia and Toni were caught sneaking out at 11 o’clock on a Saturday night wearing miniskirts and too much makeup probably on their way to meet those boys with the leather jackets and the motorcycles. You want to take the movie aside and tell it gently, so as not to shatter its illusions too bluntly, You know, we’re 35 years old, you have to expect us to have had some sort of exposure to these things.

But maybe not! Connie (that would be Vardalos) and Carla (Collette: The Hours, About a Boy), just two typical Midwest lounge singers on the run from mobsters, land in West Hollywood, where they are shocked to discover that some men like other men, and some of those men like to dress as outrageous caricatures of women. They’re from Chicago, and they’ve never encountered the concept of drag queens before. I know it’s not Paris or anything, but… it’s Chicago, third largest city in the U.S., 29th largest city in the world, just behind Bangkok. Bangkok. Sheesh.

So: never met a bad joke she doesn’t love, never met a stereotype she won’t exaggerate to a breaking point — and you can imagine how excruciating that can get when drag queens and clueless Midwesterners and dinner theater are involved — and can’t seem to get past a sitcom mentality. And unlike with her smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there’s not a lot to love in spite of these killer flaws.

Stephen Spinella (Bubble Boy, Cradle Will Rock) is admittedly quite good, too, in a role for which you can just imagine he heaved an enormous sigh and consoled himself with the thought of the paycheck. His Robert, drag handle Peaches, must suffer the indignity of having a clueless straight girl — that would be Connie — stand up for his rights as, you know, a human being, couched in a story in which he’s relegated to the “always a bridesmaid” role. (Gays aren’t actually people too, just fabulous fashion accessories for straight girls.) Because — Holy Victor/Victoria, Batman! — C&C disguise themselves as gay male drag queens, the better to keep the mob off their hides, and they’re a huge huge huge hit in a way that all the actual gay male drag queens around them never could have hoped to be without the wholesome down-home innocent fabulousness of two clueless straight girls who sing show tunes unironically.

David Duchovny (Full Frontal, Evolution) is not a drag queen, by the way, not that there’s anything wrong with that and not that Duchovny hasn’t done drag before, but a nice sweet slightly confused straight guy who falls for Connie without a whole lot of to-do or excitement, even when the potential for it was all right there, ripe for the plucking. He’s another version of Greek Wedding‘s blandly sweet Ian, actually, and I’m sure it’s nice for Nia that she’s so surrounded by nice sweet guys that they all end up as models for her characters, but a little drama beyond the Bosom Buddies sitcom stuff wouldn’t go amiss.

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