Kinky Boots Julian Jarrold

This is the umpteenth version of the "plucky working class Brits do something risqué comedy,” though we’ve now graduated to the point where gayness is the mischief of choice. Alas, the naughtiness is largely reflected onto the more staid heroes.

Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) has the unenviable task of saving the family shoe business in a market that favours cheap imports over domestic craftsmanship. Desperate to unload a cancelled order at cost, he travels to London and stumbles upon female impersonator Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is coincidentally in the market for man-strong fetish boots. One hand washes the other and suddenly Lola is raising eyebrows in conservative Northampton designing the new line that just might save the business.

The film is as manipulative and cowardly as one might expect from the genre: though it makes some feeble motions to accepting difference and being tolerant, there’s no getting around the fact that Lola is permitted to be gay so long as he stays unthreatening and without a mate. The benefits are largely reaped by the "to be enlightened” factory floor workers, while a subplot involving Charlie’s greedy fiancée does more to jack up the stimulus/response, "root for the little guy” theatrics.

To be sure, it’s well wrought for a film of its type, and is expert rather than fumbling in its manipulations. Plus, Ejiofor makes a meal of his loud-and-proud character, and if Edgerton can’t compete I can’t imagine what might upstage his co-star. But there’s no denying that this isn’t playing ball with the subject matter beyond making people feel smug about being tolerant.

Kinky Boots is politics as dinner theatre, which doesn’t do anybody any serious good. This is one more Miramax attempt to take the edge off for the less adventurous "quality” audience and the results suffer accordingly. (Alliance Atlantis)