"Solo" Source: Music Box Films

Review: 'Solo' Sizzles, but Lacks an Organic Feel

Frank J. Avella READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Sophie Dupuis' third feature film, "Solo," boasts something one doesn't often see onscreen: a sexy drag duo that consists of two gorgeous men who are obviously hot for one another, making their early onstage performances sizzle with carnal desire. That alone makes it worth a watch.

Set in Montreal, the dazzling film centers on rising drag artist, Simon (Théodore Pellerin), who enjoys performing at his local club. Simon gets along with his fellow drag queens and has the constant support and love of his talented costume-designer sister, Maude (Alice Moreault), as well as his accepting family. Very early in the narrative Simon meets Olivier (Félix Maritaud), a handsome and charismatic charmer from France, and sparks fly. The two become inseparable. In addition, the couple's drag numbers excite the crowds. Alas, their dynamic creative and romantic relationship begins to show cracks as Olivier's domineering and destructive behavior begins to emerge.

Simon is at first a bit stunned by Olivier's insults and admonishments, but he capitulates to appease Olivier, and because he's fallen deeply for him. He soon finds himself skipping Sunday brunch with his family and following the dictates of his beloved boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Simon's estranged opera superstar mother, Claire (Quebec screen icon Anne-Marie Cadieux), sweeps into town and parallels become obvious between mamma and lover. Claire is a woman who chose her career over her family. She seems to have few regrets. Simon worships her, but is forever being disappointed by her. (It's a shame Claire is relegated to being so one-dimensional, since she's initially a fascinating character. Cadieux does the most she can with the role.)

Source: Music Box Films

Simon must decide if he is going to continue to be mistreated by those who purport to love him, or if he will break free from these harmful relationships.

"Solo" is often a keen work that deals with desire, insecurities, relationship toxicity, and self-empowerment. Dupuis and her terrific cast create authentic and vibrant characters, but the characters do not feel organically developed; the strict, limiting dictates of the script do not allow them to act naturally. Two of the main characters must behave in a bullying and toxic manner, one more subtle than the other. More nuance would have gone a long way.

Instead, we get a main character who is so beaten up, and beaten down, that he truly has only one choice (other than suicide), and that is to break free.

There's an "All About Eve" quality to the way that Olivier demeans and then attempts to replace Simon. But Olivier's extreme shift feels more forced than natural.

"Solo" succeeds because of Pellerin's immersive performance. His Simon is filled with contradictory and confused emotions – a confident powerhouse in drag onstage, a vulnerable little boy offstage. He allows us to empathize with Simon. And his final number lands perfectly.

The film asks some vital questions: Are we blind to the toxicity of certain people, or can toxicity manifest itself later? Or is the bully simply on his best behavior at the onset of a relationship and then comfortably unleashes his true self? And, of course, there's the often-asked question of why the victim stays. Why do they keep going back for more abuse?

The answers are usually a lot more complex than are explored in "Solo," because most people exist in the gray and are not simply heroes and villains.

"Solo" is currently playing in select theaters.

by Frank J. Avella

Frank J. Avella is a proud EDGE and Awards Daily contributor. He serves as the GALECA Industry Liaison and is a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. His award-winning short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com). Frank's screenplays have won numerous awards in 17 countries. Recently produced plays include LURED & VATICAL FALLS, both O'Neill semifinalists. He is currently working on a highly personal project, FROCI, about the queer Italian/Italian-American experience. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute

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