A perfect fit for pride month, God Save the Queens is a rapturous slice-of-life comedy with an inspirational message. Even though the ultimate morals eventually become a bit muddled (was this film trying to say that therapy is basically useless?), who really cares when the story is so feel-good. Compiling a lovely cast coupled with a handful of recognizable celebrity faces, the four lead characters are cherry-picked to perfection. I think it is virtually impossible to watch God Save the Queens and leave without a big smile on one’s face.
The film is presented in something of a vignette style, though it plays out in a rather unconventional way. We meet each of our core group separately, with one segment purposely clumping two characters together. Four leads, but three distinct and complimentary tales. First, we meet GiGi / Klein (Jordan Michael Green), a budding drag queen desperate to fill seats for her upcoming one-woman show, and to find a job to hold down. Next, Marmalde / Lewis (Kelly Mantle), former Karaoke Queen winner, is prepping for a big performance to impress a snooty talent scout (Michelle Visage) of a drag brunch. Finally, a music duo known as Dix Royale—one half sarcastic seductress Stevie Dix (Alaska Thunderfuck), the other half sassy performer Rita Royale (Laganja Estranja)—is forced to reexamine their relationship, and reunite in order to win a major Drag Talent Show.
What makes God Save the Queens structurally unique is that each of these separate drag queens must together attend therapy sessions. Serenhaven promises a guru-guided immersive therapeutic experience! After the queens arrive here, it is obvious that the situation is not to be taken seriously. They recount the continuing elements of their separate stories piece by piece, but their physical attendance for therapy really never seems necessary to the larger whole. It acts as more of a central hub to the storytelling; throw in the addition of God herself (Luenel), and one has a cute little intermission between pieces of each segment. An ongoing gag in which no one can finish the story they are attempting to tell is brilliant, and a Dix Royale superfan named Nolan (Zack Gottsagen) injects a beautiful message.
Hilariously enough, the biggest draw here for me was the presence of some of my favorite drag queens featured in RuPaul’s Drag Race. There is a literal joke segment about pathetic straight white girls whose only knowledge of drag stems from Drag Race and Miley Cyrus, so I couldn’t help feeling “very attacked” at this detail. However, the power of reuniting LaGanja Estranga, Manila Luzon, Kelly Mantle, and Alaska Thunderfuck is simply undeniable. The road is paved for unique pairings—the chemistry between Laganja and Alaska sizzles as any real-life band’s pairing should. Each all-star brings their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to the stage in a major way. In a smaller, scene-stealing role as Kiwi, Manila Luzon is hilarious; a sequence where Kiwi is extremely out of breath after being forced to gyrate onstage for over 45 minutes thanks to Stevie’s lateness is a highlight. The core group is all terrific, and get to shine in their own way.
Each segment seems to be teaching a sort of life lesson. GiGi’s focus could be on honesty and being true to oneself. She is constantly giving herself private pep-talks to fuel her motivation to thrive, and when she has to embrace a lie, the results are kind of surprising. Marmalade’s journey is one of empowerment. As a retired porn star who eats “ramen for breakfast, ramen for lunch” and sings about it with her cute lil birdie Latoya, Marmalade has had it, officially. Taking advantage of Marmalade seems to be a constant, to the point that she finally needs to speak up for herself. Stevie and Rita is a different sort of tale, one that implores the viewer to appreciate their chosen family, and to treasure loyalty above all else. This was my favorite aspect of the movie; it made me long for a full-length road trip spin-off of Dix and Royale that could allow Thunderfuck and Estranja to dial up their schtick even further. Every second they are throwing barbs at one another is joyous. Even the way Stevie has Rita’s name saved in her phone—“Fuckhead Rita”—made me laugh out loud. How dare they rob us of the full audio of a Dix Royale performance!
Unsurprisingly, these stories get wrapped up in a tidy bow. An ending winks at the audience in glee, and never forgets to stay true to the tone till the very last frame. I can easily see God Save the Queens obtaining a cult status in the years to come. It has just the right amount of cutesy charm, bubbling LGBT sparkle, warm heart, and darkly comedic vibes. Minor flaws aside, God Save the Queens is enough to make one long for the day when “all hell breaks loose!”
God Save the Queens screened virtually at 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival.