The now iconic gay phrase “The time has come for you to lip sync for your life!” was made popular by reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race. Host RuPaul says this phrase before the two bottom queens of the week have to lip sync in an attempt to save themselves from being eliminated from the show. In Phil Connell’s new queer drama Jump, Darling young drag performer Russell (Thomas Duplessie) really does have to lip sync for his life though, earning a living as Fishy Falters on the gay club circuit. However, after going through a break up with his boyfriend who is also helping to support him, Russell is forced to travel from the glitz and glam of the city to the more subdued and quiet country in order to stay with his grandmother, Margaret (Cloris Leachman) whose health has gradually deteriorated over the years.
The film starts in fabulous fashion with a scene set in Peckers, the gay club Russell is working at and audiences are immediately immersed in the unmistakable atmosphere that queer venues like this have. The authenticity of this opening is further reinforced with the casting of real life drag performers, including legendary Toronto based queen Tynomi Banks. Fans of drag will relish her presence here and her inclusion really allows audiences to get a flavour of what a night out at a gay club actually looks like. Furthermore it’s always good to see the casting of real drag performers in roles like these.
Jump, Darling continues to display its strength in representing drag beyond this bold opening, with the film going on to include discussions about drag’s legitimacy as a career choice. In addition to this, throughout the film’s running time, viewers are treated to a wide variety of lip syncs set to an excellent array of queer favourites. These help to convey the range of different drag styles there are. From the camp pop beats of Robyn’s Indestructible to Rough Trade’s sexy androgynous High School Confidential the eclectic soundtrack is used excellently to showcase all that drag has to offer. As a result viewers are treated to numerous fierce lip sync performances throughout the film that will have them itching to drag up their own lives.
These unapologetically queer moments energise and enhance the film but the heart of Jump, Darling is really the parallel between Russell and his grandmother, two souls who feel lost and are unsure of what their contribution to the world should look like. Despite being generations apart, these two individuals find themselves at the same challenging crossroads, unsure of which way to turn next. The relationship is depicted well by both Duplessie and Leachman, bringing emotion and humour into their partnership with ease. This is one of Leachman’s last performances and she really excels most in the more dramatic moments where we get to see her fantastic ability, transcending any notions that her age may hold her back. Duplessie stands his ground alongside this acting royalty though, making for a compelling lead character both in and out of heels. Although their partnership isn’t anything spectacular and similar pairings have been seen before, they demonstrate enough of a connection and share ample chemistry to make their relationship a success and allow it to work for the benefit of the picture.
Whilst Russell is fighting his doubts about his career aspirations to be an actor and weighing up his future as a drag queen, Margaret is coming to terms with her rapidly declining health and is opposing her daughter’s wishes to move her into a care facility. Neither of the storylines is really explored in all that much depth, but the similarities between the two do combine well, creating a duo of plot threads that make sense existing in this shared space. There are some sweet messages that come out of the film and it spells some obvious truths out for viewers who maybe aren’t as familiar with drag as others, but beyond this Jump, Darling doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but who says every film needs to?
What Jump, Darling does offer is a touching tale of two different generations rediscovering their worth and refocusing their purpose in life. There are laughs and lessons along the way and a whole lot of fabulousness thanks to Russell’s collection of synthetic wigs and repertoire of routines. So it’s tens across the board for Fishy Falters and whilst the film can’t quite achieve this same perfection, its abundance of charm more than makes up for it. But Jump, Darling is certainly no drag and anyway, being perfect is overrated.