Week 2 in April’s Blog Free or Die Hard series and this one’s a corker. A great British classic if you will and a film that has spawned, not only a hit West End play but also a huge crush on its leading man, by me.
I saw this when it first came out over a decade ago now and loved it so I’m pretty stoked to be getting a second viewing of it for the purposes of the collab.
But has it stood the test of time? We shall see!
As always *Spoilers*!
Kinky Boots (2005)
Director: Julian Jarrold
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton, Sarah-Jane Potts, Nick Frost
IMDB Synopsis: A drag queen comes to the rescue of a man who, after inheriting his father’s shoe factory, needs to diversify his product if he wants to keep the business afloat.
Well, this was just the ideal film to view on a Sunday afternoon because it’s joyous, frankly. I know I’m jumping the gun a little and I’ll rein it for now but I had so much fun being involved that I might as well have been stitching thigh high boots next to Nick Frost myself.
Anywhoo. We start with a cheeky little insight into the childhoods of the two men we’ll come to know as the main characters of this fabulous (and true!) tale.
Lola (Ejiofor), who is Simon as a child, has an epiphany in a pair of red heels (they are always red heels) much to the disdain of his strict and unforgiving father. Meanwhile, young Charlie (Edgerton) learns first hand the importance of a damn good Oxford brogue and all that goes with it.
Many years later, Charlie has finally flown the nest, leaving behind his father’s shoe factory for a life in the city with his fiance, Nicola. Tragically, before the couple have even closed the door on their first night in their new life, Charlie receives the call to say that Mr Price (Robert Pugh) has passed away.
Back in the family business and unclear about the future, Charlie quickly realises that things aren’t looking great financially. In short, the original Mr P wasn’t a great business man and he’s been running the factory into the ground.
Charlie does what he can to sort it and on a mad dash to London to offload some stock, accidentally gets himself involved in a street assault. Being on the goofy side, it’s Charlie who ends up most injured, even though he’s supposed to be the saviour. Lola’s the one being attacked, though really, she’s doing just fine without assistance.
Lola is brusque and Charlie isn’t exactly comfortable when it’s revealed who Lola is but he has a look around the nightclub she works in (where he finds himself recovering) and then goes on his merry way.
He doesn’t give Lola another thought what with being so busy having to lay off staff and frantically find a way out of the factory going bust. When he lets Lauren (Potts) go, he gets a mouthful about diversifying the product but comes up short on a good idea. At first anyway.
Eventually the penny drops and an excited Charlie ropes Lauren into a trip to the Big Smoke where they meet Lola at the club and float their idea past her- shoes for transvestites. Lola’s into it as, conveniently, she’s been suffering with pinched feet in stilettos for years. She even agrees to travel up to Northampton to pick up her first pair of boots in person, though Charlie tries to persuade her otherwise.
“The fuck you just say about my jacket?!”
Predictably – but oh so fabulously – Lola arrives in full drag and causes quite the stir with the factory workers. There’s nothing new here as Nick Frost mistakes her for a ‘real woman’ and catcalls her publicly, only to be shot down with the truth in front of his colleagues.
I love Nick Frost with every fibre of my being and I hate that he’s the worst in this, although of course, of course he’ll eventually redeem himself, revealing that he’s a teddy bear really with a heart of gold. But it takes a while, a truckload of homophobia and an arm wrestling challenge for him to start changing his mind about Lola, and to start to grow as a human being.
“At least his grammar’s on fleek…”
Lola, in fact, has some growing of her own to do and turns up to the factory on the second day without her finery. (Chiwetel is ridonkulously sexy in any outfit at all times, I’m sorry). Nick Frost is mean to her and manages to completely derail her, which comes as a surprise to Charlie, and perhaps to us, the viewers.
You see, Lola is a born performer with no fear but she’s the Sasha Fierce to Simon’s Bey and I think we can all understand that. Lola and Charlie have a heart to heart about their lives and Lola lets Simon in about his father, a boxer who disowned him and then died before they were able to reconcile. (Well, of course I sobbed).
Lola then starts to stand up for herself against the work bullying (which really only comes from one person) by asking Nick Frost what she has to do to ‘be a man’ (hence the arm wrestling). The other workers are a mixture of fascinated/bemused by Lola, with some of the men asking well-thought out (if probing) questions about her sexuality and why she dresses the way she does if she doesn’t want to sleep with men.
“Fabulous does not come with a flat heel, people!”
FYI the first prototype of the first boot does not go down well so Lola sticks around to be the designer. Obvs. She wants heels heels heels so one of the most endearing parts of the film is where some of the old school workers come up with an idea for a reinforced steel stiletto heel. Cuuute – but also: deadly.
“Not really sure they’ll offset the tabards, mind…”
Charlie, while all this excitement occurs is trying to hold on to his fiance (correction: she is the worst) who is pushing him to sell the factory so they can start their life. She’s also desperate for a Jimmy Choo wedding and is massively unsympathetic about anything that doesn’t involve her.
She’s a monstrous caricature of a woman who is not right for Charlie at all and you’ll never guess what she goes and does, thus leaving him safe to pursue the success of his factory – fashion show in Milan, baby! – and another nearby romantic interest…
Mysterious this plot it not but it’s as familiar as your favourite pair of pajamas and that’s what makes it so bloody lovely.
Some women just don’t deserve nice shoes
It’s not all fun and games for a while though, as Charlie remortages his home (without telling Bitchy Nicola) to fund a slot on the catwalks of Milan (as you do right off the bat). In the lead up to Milan tensions rise among the staff, and there are harsh words and walk outs (but the opportunity of redemption for one worker, praise the Lord!).
Charlie also rows with Lola by accident (on the night he finds out Bitchy Nicola ain’t nothing but a lyin’ cheat), and says a few things he can’t take back. This sends Lola sashaying furiously (but actually deeply hurt) back home to London which doesn’t bode well for Milan and the planned catwalk show.
I’ll park it here just in case you’ve not got round to seeing this beauty yet (you’re nearly 11 years late, yo) but not before everyone’s favourite section.
The thigh’s the limit in this rather *spoilery* scene
Will the show, as they say, go on in Milan or will everything fall apart spectacularly? Will Lola ever forgive Charlie for his unkind words? Will Charlie get the girl (a decent one this time)?
And what, finally, will become of the shoe factory and all the lovely workers? Only one way to find out for your own sweet selves!
I like any film that’s about accepting yourself and both our leads have work to do on that front (#selflove). Both men need to work their way out from the shadows of their separate family histories: Lola to let go of regret and guilt, Charlie to find his was along his own shoe strewn path.
It’s sad at times but overall wonderful, hopeful and fucking fabulous. Lola is a dream character with so much warmth to give, while Charlie is a wet wipe who finally comes through at the last hour.
All the performances are spot on but it won’t surprise you to note that my fave, Nick Frost steals the show as far as I’m concerned. It’s not nice to watch a hero sneer his ignorance across the screen but I feel like he nails the narrow mindedness of a small town individual perfectly and then comes through like a motherfucking boss. That’s my boy.
Nick Frost for Magic Mike 3 please
I have no criticisms except this: Bitchy Nicola flees the restaurant she’s in with her lover when Charlie turns up but leaves behind her Choo on the pavement? I don’t buy that at all. Sure it’s a loose Cinderella reference but there’s no way I’d leave my £400 shoe for anyone, no sir – and neither would she.
My Rating: 5/5. It’s not perfect by any means but I love it so it gets the full five. So sue me.
So, did Kinky Boots make Jill want to pull on her best sequined number and boogie the night away with her backing dancers, or did it make her want to Sashay Away? You know the drill.