Embracing the queerness of being a Freak Show
Freak Show is the directorial debut of Trudie Styler, adapting the novel by James St James.
Freak Show is now available on DVD and on general release.
Freak Show gives us the story of Billy Bloom, a one-of-a-kind, fabulous, glitter-bedecked, gender-fluid teenager whose razor-sharp wit is matched only by his outrageous, anything-goes fashion sense. But when he’s forced to live with his straight-laced father, Billy finds himself a diva-out-of-water at his new ultra-conservative high school. Undaunted by the bullies who refuse to understand him, the fearless Billy sets out to make a big statement in his own inimitable way – challenging the school’s reigning mean girl for the title of homecoming queen.
Freak Show is a film in the same genre as Love, Simon and Alex Strangelove, but the tone and style also borrows heavily from the John Hughes tradition of US high school movies.
Alex Lawther takes on the role of Billy, and commits to it fully. It’s a compelling performance from Lawther in a difficult role – Billy isn’t particularly likeable, but we grow to understand how Billy’s defence mechanisms are manifesting in his relationships with the people in his life.
Lawther’s breakthrough role was as the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014). He’s also starred in Departure (2015), and the series The End of the Fucking World (2017).
The supporting cast includes Bette Midler, Abigail Breslin, Ian Nelson, Laverne Cox, and John McEnroe.
Bette Midler plays Billy’s mother, Abigail Breslin plays Billy’s nemesis, Ian Nelson is the straight-boy love-interest, Laverne Cox plays a reporter, and John McEnroe makes a cameo as a sports instructor.
Freak Show is a good reminder that it’s not easy being a queer teenager, wherever you are in the world.