“A heel should be about SEX!” yells Lola played with electrifying force by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Based on a true story Kinky Boots takes a look at an old-school shoe factory in the quiet burgh of Northampton England. Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) inherits the place when his father passes away--but the factory in financial straits. It is simply outdated. So on the advice of one of his employees Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts) Charlie decides to think out of the box so to speak and finds a niche market selling over-the-top but sturdy footwear to transvestites and drag queens. But he needs vision since most of the factory’s workers are used to making men’s loafers. That’s where Lola one of London’s premier drag queens comes in. She has all the flair and design ideas Charlie is looking for--but bringing her to conservative Northampton proves to be a bit tricky. That is until everyone gets to know Lola. Ejiofor is definitely an actor to watch out for. Since making an indelible impression in Stephen Frears’ gritty drama Dirty Pretty Things the British-born actor has been quietly stealing scenes in almost every movie he is in--from playing a deliciously evil drug lord in Four Brothers to Denzel Washington’s sparring partner in Inside Man. But in Kinky Boots Ejiofor doesn’t have to steal any scenes; he IS the movie as the tough but kindhearted Lola. The rest of the cast does a very nice job don’t get me wrong. Edgerton (King Arthur) is particularly endearing as the son desperately trying to keep his dad’s dreams alive while Potts (Wonderland) with her pixie face plays Charlie’s sweet love interest. But it’s all Ejiofor--strutting around in one outlandish musical number after another all while helping Charlie save the factory. A tour de force. A movie about shoes. What could be more fun? Actually Kinky Boots follows some standard fairly foolproof plot devices. There’s the son taking over the family business even though he has no interest in it but finds the joy of making shoes after all. Then there’s the drag queen who is just so fan-tabulous on the stage just OWNS the world but of course harbors deep pain over a father who never understood her and can’t find the right man to save her life. These kind of Boots have walked before. But with a quirky script from writers Geoff Deane and Tim Firth and an easy-going style from TV director Julian Jarrold the film further highlights that certain British wry sensibility that makes most comedies from across the pond so very appealing.
Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.