I’d like to believe that my heart is open to even the most ill-conceived of English charmers. By all technical merits, both 2003’s Love Actually and 2005’s Layer Cake are absolute garbage, but if either of them shows up on HBO, there’s a good chance I’ll watch them to the end. It has to be something about the accents, or the way that English men tend to stutter a lot. Regardless, it wasn’t until Kinky Boots that I realized that popular English films can, indeed, be as inane as popular films here.
Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton
) has just left his father and his father’s shoe business for a life farther away with his fiancée and a job in marketing. Literally the day he moves away, he gets the call that pops has passed away. With a buyer pulling out and mounting amounts of “redundancies,” Charlie considers selling the factory (his father was thinking of it, also). That is until he meets Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor
), a cross-dressing singer who Charlie attempts to save from a beating, not knowing that Lola used to be a boxer. In a moment of inspiration, Charlie decides to design cross-dressing boots for Lola and her friends and brings her in to supervise the proceedings. Charlie and his flirtatious assistant, Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts
), must defend him when the male company workers don’t warm up to Lola, and Lola comes to their rescue when a fashion show goes disastrously wrong. Article continues below
The plot seems impenetrably charming in overview. Uptight young English man gets a wake up call about life and love from a life-loving cross-dresser; what’s not to love about that situation? As it turns out, a lot. The major problem here is time, notably lack of it. There is little or no time given to the characters to really get to know them and let us fall for them. Lola is the only one that the audience feels anything for, and that is mainly because she is persecuted by everyone. As much time as Charlie is on screen, his motives and actions are always based on the store and not himself, and therefore we can’t really get to know who he is in general. The script by Tim Firth and Geoff Deane supposes that he binds himself to the company as a remembrance of his father. Fine, but then we are not given enough time to get what his dad meant to him. All we get is a trite montage of “shoes are the key to life” vignettes between a young Charlie and his father. There is a serious lack of character development. And call me a broken record player, but the love story between Charlie and Lauren is undercooked to an amateurish degree. Lauren and Charlie actually talk together perhaps five times, and some of those are just about business.
What salvages the film is Ejiofor, the terrifically talented character actor from Melinda and Melinda and Dirty Pretty Things (also a drab villain in Four Brothers). He brings charm and a distinct comic timing to Lola, especially in a hysterical scene where Lola teaches Charlie what is wrong with his initial design. Edgerton, especially for a leading man, seems lacking in the charm department and doesn’t do anything with the role (he simply says the line in his accent for the most part). Potts might have registered with talent if she was given more screen-time but most of the time is given to Edgerton and (thank God) Ejiofor. Where a one man show would usually fair okay with a contrived or lopsided plot (The Matador), Kinky Boots simply just doesn’t take the time to let us give a hoot about anyone but Ejiofor. If that was their mission, consider it accomplished.