'Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts' Review: An emotion-laden look into life of drag world's larger-than-life Barbie
If you've been a follower of drag queens, you'd know there's a pattern to their life in the limelight. It starts with 'RuPaul's Drag Race' and what follows is a couple of songs with very fun titles, the ones that someone could 'lipsync' to. I'm not explaining that, if you know, you just know. What also follows for some or most of the queens is documentary films offering a peek into their big glitzy world but nothing compares to the unique approach of drag world's most bizarre and unique but highly entertaining personality - Trixie Mattel's documentary film.
'Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts' chronicles the most tumultuous year into the Skinny Legend's (as she's popularly known) life, 2017-2018 to be more precise, the year where Trixie, after two underwhelming outings on season 7 of 'RPDR', finally redeemed herself when she won 'RPDR: All Stars 3'. The very same year, Trixie lost her friendship with close friend, Katya Zamolodchikova, the drag persona of Brian McCook. The two of them competed together on Season 7 and had remained friends after the show. They also turned creative partners and 'RPDR' creators, World of Wonder, gave them a series together called 'UNHhhh' which was a hit from the get-go. The success of the show also led to Viceland giving both of them their own show which was titled 'The Trixie and Katya Show'. The show was shortlived because Katya was not in the right headspace and was continuously fighting the urge to stay off drugs. Things spiraled pretty quickly after that and after an emotional and angry outburst on set, Katya pulled out of the show abruptly to seek help for substance abuse, the impact of which not only affected the latter but Trixie too who had never pictured a life without Katya ever. This is reflected in one of the clips behind the scenes where Trixie is speaking to the makeup artist, "No one’s going to want to see me without her". The documentary also offers a close look into all the effort, the shy and somber Brian Firkus puts into creating this happy, very social and larger than life persona that Trixie Mattel is.
The estrangement between the two friends comes in the first couple of minutes into the documentary. The rest of the documentary sees Trixie go through a plethora of emotions - worrying about her friend, worrying about her career, the pressures of the UK and American tour, Brian dealing with his mother's financial worries amongst other things. There's also a part from Trixie's last day on the set of 'The Trixie & Katya Show' where she's filming a few portions so that they could piece together the last few episodes. A sad Trixie tells the camera, “I didn’t like being on my own as much as I liked being friends with her. It was never about getting famous enough so that you can survive on your own. I preferred surviving with her.”
The documentary also offers an insight into Brian's troubled childhood. He was doing a fun interview with a radio channel over the phone, out of drag, very upbeat, making silly noises and all of that. The mood changes when he's asked if there was truth in the story that he adopted his drag name because of an abusive step-parent. The camera captures the tension emerging on Brian's face as he answers the question. This is one of the most uncomfortable scenes to watch as it draws attention to the sad fact in the lives of the queens where they're expected to be in performance mode even when they're out of drag. With RuPaul's Drag Race addressing these queens only by their drag names on the show, people most of the time forget that they can be a normal human with a life that doesn't necessarily have to be laden with glitter all the time. In a part shot specifically for the documentary, Brian as Trixie offers a raw account of an incident from his childhood where his stepfather pointed a loaded gun at him telling him he would kill him. He was out of the house a couple of days later after social services came to his rescue after Brian's friend had alerted them. That is another scene that is sure to tug at the viewer's heartstrings. In another scene, Brian is asked to read fan mail and he doesn't really want to because most of them say that Trixie helped them stay afloat while they battled suicidal thoughts. He tells the camera that he keeps hearing that people connect and relate to him because he's battled depression but he clarifies that he's not a sad person. Going through those letters looks like a lot to take in especially when there's a camera pointed right at your face, demanding a reaction. As a viewer too it is difficult as one can clearly sense the highly vulnerable position Brian is in- with the camera expecting him to perform even when he's just being himself.
Then there's also a time when Trixie is barely getting through the tour without panicking and blanking out on stage. It is during these times where Katya sends a series of mean texts to Trixie using extremely harsh words and cursing Trixie to fail. More than anger, the latter feels saddened by the impact that rehab has caused on Katya.
The documentary also has a lot of fun moments, especially the footage from the fan meet and greets, RuPaul's Drag Race viewing parties and especially from the finale viewing party, the one where Trixie found out she'd won. If you're a follower of the show you'd know that RPDR films the winners portion with all three queens separately and when the show airs, its a surprise for the fans and the queens alike.
While the documentary is a breath of fresh air with no 'tea spills' or any drama between any queens, what it lacks is a closure on Katya and Trixie's feud. Both of the queens are friends now, Katya has fully recovered and the two are back together doing their thing but since an integral part of the documentary and Trixie's life from the year this was filmed was the fallout, a look into how the two of them reconciled would have proved fitting. Brian McCook appears in the last 5 minutes of the documentary wherein they're backstage at a Trixie show, both of them are laughing and have gone back to being what they were before Brian went to rehab but how that happened, who approached who and the emotional reunion was amiss.
In spite of the hits and misses and the highs and lows, this documentary is a must-watch. With the focus on real discussions about mental health to the frustrations and moments of self-doubt, the documentary takes leaps towards humanizing drag queens and people might treat them with more compassion and respect it when they don't feel 'performancy'. Trixie floating through life and getting on that stage with her game face on in spite of all the pressures and trials behind the scenes is a nod to the millions of us who push through life even after with the weight of our not so perfect lives bogging us down.
'Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts' is now available to stream on Netflix.