“Equal parts funny and heartbreaking.”
Over the past several years, drag performance has established itself into the mainstream, thanks in large part to Logo TV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality competition for drag queens.
Drag race alum, Trixie Mattel, is one of the queens who is well on her way to being a household name, due to her win on RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3, multiple studio albums, and the success of Unhhhh, her YouTube series with comedy partner Katya Zamolodchikova. In 2017, the man beneath the wig, Brian Firkus, and filmmaker, Nick Zeig-Owens, decided to document one of the busiest years of the drag queen’s life. The result is a 91-minute documentary, Moving Parts, which was released at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
The opening scene of Moving Parts introduces us to Brian – no wig, no makeup, no glamour. Filmmaker Nick follows Brian with a camera as he explains the childhood photos on his fridge. From the get-go, the audience is invited to look beyond the persona of Trixie Mattel and deeper into the personal life of Brian Firkus. This behind-the-scenes look into Brian’s drag persona is central to Moving Parts. Aside from talking heads sprinkled throughout the film, the cinematography mostly consists of handheld shots, scored by a mix of stripped-down covers and original songs performed by Brian.
Seeing beyond the glitz and glam of showbiz also means seeing the difficult parts of being in the spotlight, and Moving Parts is not holding anything back. Much of the film follows the production of The Trixie and Katya Show, a television spinoff of Trixie and Katya’s YouTube series. Throughout the production, Katya’s history with addiction begins to rear its head. This eventually leads to a falling out between the two queens, along with the decision for Katya to leave production and seek rehabilitation. Trixie is then faced with the difficult task of figuring out how to move on in her career as Trixie without Katya. While the film shows us sides of the fan-beloved Katya that are hard to watch, Trixie continually reminds us of the reality of taboo issues such as mental illness and addiction, which especially affect the LGBTQ+ community.
Through her various wins and successes, Trixie blossoms before the camera into her own unique identity. She not only shares the personal parts of Brian, like his family and his home, but also the personal parts of Trixie, like dressing rooms and costume collections. Moving Parts really does give us a peek beyond the curtain (or should I say, a peek beyond the wig) into the inner workings of the ever-growing American drag scene. Moving Parts conveys this through the eyes of the Wisconsin-born, Native-American folk-singer-by-night-human-Barbie-by-day Trixie Mattel, who guides us through her burgeoning success. The film is equal parts funny and heartbreaking, and it asks us to take drag a little more seriously – but not too seriously.
Dir: Nick Zeig-Owens
Prod: David Silver
Available on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Netflix (March 27)