Toronto
2 min

Gay boy vs Goliath

A true-life movie of the week

SURPISING WIT. In Prom Queen, starring Mac Fyfe as Jason and Aaron Ashmore as Marc Hall, director John L'Ecuyer and writer Kent Staines bring much needed levity to the story of Hall's fight with a small-town Catholic school board. Credit: Xtra files

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fiction is always better than real life. If any gay news story bored me these past few years, it was the Marc Hall I-want-to-go-to- the-prom story, and if any movie has entertained me, it’s the dramatized version of same.



Prom Queen, the lightly fictionalized story of Hall’s fight against a small-town Catholic school board, is more entertaining than it has any decent right to be. A dangerously simplistic tale of David vs Goliath, the original story had all the makings of yet another awkward, earnest movie of the week. Young gay guy sticks with his values and triumphs over adversity! Yet, working with these thinnest of materials, writer Kent Staines and director John L’Ecuyer have crafted a gossamer fable of astonishing light and wit. The whole thing is slick, tight, impeccably paced and, most miraculous of all, very, very funny.



From the beginning of this two-hour flick, the producers turn the usual weepy conventions of the coming-out story inside out. Marc (Aaron Ashmore) doesn’t have any problems being gay. He has friends, a boyfriend and a place at school. His very Catholic, very working-class parents might be a bit of a problem. He hasn’t yet told them about what his best friend wryly terms his “alternative lifestyle.” But his parents greet the news with a mix of diffident shyness and complete lack of surprise. “Marc,” says his mother (played with virtuoso subtlety by Quebec star Marie Tifo), “your hair, it is blue and you have a poster of Celine Dion on your wall. We know.”



Neither his high school principal (Dave Foley) nor the local school board rep (Fiona Reid) are nearly as supportive of his bid to bring his boyfriend to the prom. But three of his straight friends set up a website with links to gay activist sites and before you know it Marc is a media sensation.



A somewhat oily lawyer (Scott Thompson) appears on the scene and soon urban fags are mingling with small-town Catholics. It’s a bit of a culture clash and it all comes to a head at a party in the Hall’s home where one of the urban fags tries to pick up Marc’s bear-like dad. But of course it all goes fairy-tale-well in the end and Marc has a courtroom scene worthy of Oscar Wilde.



The film’s true genius, however, is to set Marc’s earnest aspirations against the flawed characters of his contemporaries. Almost all of the minor characters are cast as comic foils and some of them are very funny, from the amateur filmmaker doing an Atom Egoyan, “but with feeling,” to Reid’s hysterical impression of a woman on the verge of major repression. The principal is a weasely wizard out of a John Waters movie, Marc’s lawyer is a vain know-it-all, and most of Marc’s classmates are just horny teenagers who want Marc to go to the prom so they too can get laid. (Long story, but if he doesn’t go, his best friend is talking boycott.) In other words, they’re all everyday imperfect people and their camp confessions of frailty set Marc’s eventual triumph in an even brighter light.



I particularly liked the scene in which the lawyer rattled on about the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms while some thumping disco anthem plays in the background. It’s not often such deep thoughts come in such a shallow setting.



At the end of the movie, a triumphant Marc climbs through the skylight in his chartered stretch limo and screams, “I am the queen of the world.” It’s a blunt reference but entirely appropriate. Camp, funny and charming, Prom Queen is Priscilla for Canadians.



PROM QUEEN.

9pm. Tue, Jun 1.

CTV.