Review: I Am Divine

divine

8/10
Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Cast: Harris Glenn Milstead (Divine), John Waters, Frances Milstead, Tab Hunter

Divine was born Harris Glenn Milstead to middle-class conservatives in sleepy Baltimore and ended his life 42 years later, self-proclaimed Queen of Trash and cult icon for misfits the world over. Best pal of John Waters and integral member of the Dreamlanders – the egregious troupe including David Lochary, Susan Lowe, Mary Vivian Pearce and Mink Stole, many of whom feature – we follow his slow but steady ascent from bullied oddball to “the most beautiful girl in the world”.  

What this 2013 biopic achieves with most success is exploring the delicate balance between Divine the person and Divine the performer, examining the man that lies somewhere in the middle – revelling in the fame and glory of the monster he has created, whilst struggling to be taken seriously as a character actor. It sometimes feels that the darker moments of his life are skimmed over in favour of celebrating Divine’s glorious excesses, but watching him luxuriate in his grotesqueness is far too entertaining to object to. As the film begins to slide towards the superficial, a well-timed and poignant family reconciliation after years of estrangement keeps you emotionally invested. In a confused age of manufactured cultural ‘icons’, it’s good to be reminded of Divine’s authentic legacy as both underground nobility and the last bastion of all things truly fabulous.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

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