KINKY BOOTS
 

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


                 Price and Sons Ltd. of England, doing business in Northampton since 1895, four generations of shoemakers.  The fourth generation is Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), a sober son who has learned the family business well – it’s just that he doesn’t like it much.  When his father dies, Charlie is expected by the loyal employees to step in, and with a heavy burden of reluctance, he does. 

                What Charlie finds out and what the employees don’t know, is that their shoe company had been sliding toward bankruptcy, that Dad was about to lay off employees, that the inventory on the shelves was bogus; customers had evaporated.  He lays off fifteen employees, his heart sinking with each one.  This is a man trapped by circumstance in a job he doesn’t like, and he’s making enemies.  Everyone is miserable.

                So what happens next in this British comedy?  Think of “Brassed Off,” (coal) “Calendar Girls,” (a needy hospital) “The Full Monty,” (steel) “Billy Elliot.” (a miners’ strike).  The Brits love to respond to depressed industries and bad times with grit, flair, and humor; it’s in their bones.  

                Lauren (Sarah Jane Potts), a lively machine operator (and guess where that’s going), tells Charlie to look for something new to save the company.   Charlie goes to London and runs into Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a drag queen with high style and a passel of vulnerabilities.  Lola brings the design needs of her profession to the factory and the solution is born:  kinky boots.  So it’s on to the fashion runway in Milan, to the excitement of victory for the employees, to the transformation of two recalcitrant employees.  Why is this predictability still so satisfying?  The answer, of course, is quality. 

                For one thing, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Lola is real triumph of style.  He has loved high heels and dresses since boyhood, but no one can be impervious to the verbal ugliness that comes his way.  As we root throughout for a final celebration of Lola’s talents and loyalties, we realize this is the wave that carries the film.  As Charlie, Joel Edgerton is excellent both in his early depression and in victory.  Without quite knowing he’s supposed to, he wins the heroine.  Sarah Jane Potts is the kind of unlikely, quirky actress the British love to discover, and she’s a reward for everyone. 

                Perhaps the best of all this is Charlie’s challenge.  As he tries to imagine how to make stiletto boots with a shank that can support a big man, his inner turmoil – with an ocean of help from Lola - begins to turn to inspiration.  The process of making shoes becomes the background for the transformation.  So that’s how they make a heel, a shank, a sole, a toe.  By the time the wonderful old machinery is grinding out kinky boots, everyone is happy.  And if that seems too good to be true, isn’t that just what we love about light British comedy?  


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