There’s a touching moment near the end of “Dancing Queens,” the new Swedish dramedy about a young female dancer who sneaks into a drag troupe.
Dylan (Molly Nutley) gets to dance a well-choreographed and photographed duet in a modern dance company, perhaps fulfilling her late dancer/mother’s destiny as she does. Lovely.
But then we remember this Swedish film’s title isn’t a play on the ABBA song and has nothing do with with ABBA.
We think back to all the drag numbers we’ve seen choreographed by Victor (Fredrik Quinones), young Dylan’s co-conspirator in getting her into the team at Queens, a Stockholm drag club. They’re unremarkable lip-sync productions still trapped in “I Will Survive.”
We recall that it’s — well 2021 — and people are still trotting out this “woman pretends to be a man pretending to be a woman” nonsense nearly 40 years after “Victor/Victoria,” and closing in on 90 years since the German film that inspired “Victor/Victoria.” The novelty’s gone, and kind of become offensive.
And one wonders, how do you say “WTF” in Swedish?
This lumbering, clunky contraption from the Land of Volvos and Dragon Tattoos is about a 20ish dancer (Nutley) who delivers packages, by boat, on the island she’s called home, teaching the town’s tiny tots dance at Dylan’s Disco, her dance studio, in her spare time. When they go home for the night, she “Flashdances” (sans water buckets) and weeps. Her mother died not 18 months before.
Bob Dylan-obsessed Dad (Mattias Nordkvist) is morose, picking out downbeat Bob Dylan songs on his guitar. Grandma (Marie Göranzon) frets away, and urges Dylan to go and audition for this modern dance ensemble in Stockholm. Which eventually, Dylan does.
Only she’s a month too late. That’s when an administrator with the company points her to the drag club where she can find a little work cleaning, and maybe fall under the gaze of choreographer-dancer Victor, trying to save Queens — the club — and its aging, overweight diva Tommy la Diva (Claes Malmberg) whose best lip-syncing is twenty years and fifty kilos behind him.
Dylan decides to strike a pose — as a guy — and Victor plays along and there’s your movie.
There is an informative debate on the trials and “life lived” that drag performers consider a must. We are all heroines in our own tragedy, in essence.
Funny fellow dancers who aren’t funny and apparently don’t realize that the slight, girlish new “girl” is a girl, drab choreography, sad interludes as we consider how people come to perform drag, “Dancing Queens” kind of has it all. And by “all” I mean nothing much.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, profanity
Cast: Molly Nutley, Fredrik Quinones, Claes Malmberg, Christopher Wollter, Emil Almén, Mattias Nordkvist and Marie Göranzon
Credits: Directed by Helena Bergström, script by Helena Bergström, Denize Karabuda. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:50