‘I’m literally a block away,’ I assured my boyfriend, racing down 57th Street in 2 ¾-inch Steve Madden boots, about four blocks away. I was late, per usual, but only by 10 minutes, to meet him outside of The DGA New York Theater for the premiere of Bianca Del Rio’s debut movie, ‘Hurricane Bianca.’
I stumbled past a beautiful woman in tall heels and a sparkly top; when I double-took, I saw it was Markus Kelle, who nodded with a “Hey, girl,” in a low, raspy baritone.
I found my boyfriend, and we went inside, somehow snagging seats in the front row on the far right side. By the time the movie was supposed to start it was packed, every seat sold for TWO showings back to back. My boyfriend, the person who got me into “RuPaul’s Drag Race” just five months ago, was excited beyond belief. (After watching season eight every week at Boots and Saddle, we marathoned past seasons at his apartment—he’s purchased them all.)
Michael Musto came out before the movie began, dressed in a typical show-stealing silver-sequined blazer, and introduced the movie’s star players to the stage—the iconic Bianca Leigh, Shangela (DJ Pierce), Willam (Belli) (my boyfriend squealed when she came out in a gorgeous sequined minidress), director Matt Kugelman, producer Ash Christian, hilarious Rachel Dratch and finally Bianca Del Rio (Roy Haylock).
Del Rio strut around in a glistening black gown and enormous headpiece, looking like a modern-day Joan Crawford dream, cracking classic Bianca jokes left and right. My boyfriend did his best to take pictures subtly, without looking like a tourist at The Statue of Liberty.
As the pre-credits rolled, I noticed a familiar name—casting by Judy Bowman. “Small world,” I thought, recalling a year before when I met Bowman, drunk off my ass at Merchants Bar in Chelsea, and I just kept screaming her name “JUDY!” because I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever done. She got me in a cab and paid for me to get home safe. Were I an aspiring actor, this interaction would have been mortifying in the morning.
The movie opens to Del Rio in all male garb, living in New York City and substitute-teaching science. We meet his best friends (Shangela and Willam, respectably) and see him struggle to make it—until he’s offered a full-time position in Texas by none other than Alan Cumming. Other cameos include Markus Kelle playing, well, Markus Kelle, Margaret Cho as a wig clerk, a hilarious Alyssa Edwards (Justin Johnson) playing “Ambrosia Salad” and the one-and-only RuPaul himself playing a weather forecaster, sporadically telling his viewers about Hurricane Bianca.
The following hour and a half were filled with laughter from the entire audience—from Dratch’s wardrobe to Willam’s one-liners to Del Rio reading every character to filth. (She calls one of her students “Bathmat” for most of the movie.) Serious moments are peppered appropriately throughout the movie, dealing with Leigh’s trans character and her estranged family.
The genius of “Hurricane Bianca,” however, isn’t the comedy: It’s the message. While being insanely entertaining, the movie is about inequality, specifically job inequality. While gays can be married in all 50 states, you can still get fired from your job JUST FOR BEING GAY in 28 states.
Del Rio’s character shows us how harsh it can be to be fired for being gay, while pointing out that it’s not just the gays who are hurt—in this case, it’s also the students. After being fired for being gay, Del Rio comes back as a Bianca, in full drag, to get the job back and help the students reach their full potential. (And, spoiler alert—they’d still be dumb as a box of rocks in the science department if it wasn’t for Del Rio.)
The movie is reminiscent of another RuPaul movie, 1999’s “But I’m a Cheerleader,” in which a teenage lesbian (“Orange is the New Black’s” Natasha Lyonne) is sent to a rehab camp to become a heterosexual. Amidst all the laughs (including RuPaul’s character, who introduces himself saying, “I myself was once a gay,” then struggles lusting after the gays in the camp), the movie has a bigger message: being yourself in a world so unaccepting, and the inequalities we face just for being ourselves.
A beautiful message, a hilarious script and an all-star cast make “Hurricane Bianca” a must-see movie—and if you want to come over and watch it, I guarantee my boyfriend has already pre-ordered it from Wolfe Video.