Check your expectations at the door. This drag comedy is no catty campfest. For his feature debut, Thomas Flaherty crafted a thoughtful, poignant, and sometimes achingly honest take on the quarter-life crisis. It’s also funny and sexy, with fresh musical performances, and stunning black-and-white cinematography.
Best friends Judy and Chrissy are plotting their dubious rise to the top of New York City’s drag cabaret scene. When Chrissy unexpectedly announces that he’s moving in with his new boyfriend — in Philadelphia! — Judy begins a reluctant odyssey of self-discovery. But it’s a bumpy road to queenly enlightenment as Judy has some wild encounters with glamorous boho queers, literate tricks, hostile audience members, and even (gasp!) monogamous suburban homos.
The multi-hyphenate Flaherty plays Judy in an assured and shameless star turn. He uses his own emotive singing voice to reveal Judy’s inner journey in a series of moody, starkly lit live performances. Favoring deep cuts, from Tin Pan Alley to 1970s AM radio, Judy delivers musical soliloquies that breathe new life into a host of should-be gay standards.
Sure to be remembered as one of the year’s great debuts, CHRISSY JUDY blends classic filmmaking chops with emotional immediacy and a no-nonsense queer sensibility. — Frank Danay