Victor/Victoria

1982, Movie, PG, 133 mins

Review

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A musical boudoir farce, captivating at times, infuriating at others. A British singer (Julie Andrews) and an aging homosexual (Robert Preston) are down-and-out nightclub performers in Paris. Hungry and broke, they're desperate for employment until Toddy (Preston) recasts his friend as the female impersonator singer-dancer Victor/Victoria--putting the chanteuse in the unusual position of being a woman who pretends to be a man who performs as a woman onstage. She is an immediate hit at a local nightclub, where King (James Garner), a gangster from Chicago traveling with his blowsy girlfriend (a Jean Harlowesque Lesley Ann Warren) and his bodyguard, Squash (Alex Karras), sees her perform. King is attracted to Victor/Victoria, but thinks, like everyone else, that she is a transvestite. The burly Squash, meanwhile, watches in amazement as his macho boss apparently loses his yen for beautiful women and becomes attracted to his own kind.

Edwards' film forces audiences to examine their own ideas about gender and sexuality, and that's great. But Andrews, despite looking very Berlin Bowie in her tux, is so safe and sane, she brings no madness of her own to the farce. Everything therefore swirls around a still center--in the film's one good number, "Le Jazz Hot", she climbs a staircase like she has weights on her feet. Nor can she summon any of the impersonator's hauteur or joy to her masquerade. Robert Preston is wonderful--he plays a cliche with such malice and relish, he revitalizes it, and Garner is successful kidding his own past macho image. A platinumed Warren is also quite good, but Edwards makes her dopey sweetness go sour--he humiliates her, especially in a chorus line number that could make a feminist a raging virago. Will someone please give Warren a role worthy of her undeniable talent? The film's best moments are early on: Andrews warbling for disinterested cabaret owners, or the preparation of Victoria to become Victor. After that, this becomes increasingly coarse and overstated. Edwards directs like a grizzly bear whipping up a souffle. The screenplay was based on VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA, a 1933 German film, first refashioned in 1935 into a star vehicle for the ever-delightful Jessie Mathews, FIRST A GIRL. leave a comment

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