I seem to have a thing for seeing movies with a connection to a world I’m not a part of. Ironically, maybe, the world of fandom to which I belong is that of film itself, which becomes my one portal into other interests I have little to no time for. As in, I have literally seen exactly one episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It was at a viewing party in a gay bar in New Orleans during the week of Mardi Gras in 2014. The show was five years old at the time, and as many years have passed since then.
I have since gained only a cursory knowledge of who Trixie Mattel even is, let alone Brian Firkus, who created the Trixie persona. That cursory knowledge comes pretty much exclusively from gifs and clips shared by queer people I follow on Twitter. This documentary, though, Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts, has certainly piqued my interest. I might even buy her two folk albums, Two Bids and One Stone, many songs from which we see performed in the film.
The many existent fans of Trixie will already have knowledge of what is presented in the film, most notably her friendship, professional partnership, estrangement and ultimate reconciliation with fellow drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova. This is a very compelling part of Trixie’s story, and the reconciliation element could have used a little more fanfare in the film’s narrative. As presented here, it’s somewhat disappointingly anticlimactic, as though Katya being back in Trixie’s life is just an afterthought in the sequence of vignettes representing the past couple of years in Trixie’s life.
Aside from the Katya stuff, though, Trixie is perfectly compelling in her own right — Brian Firkus every bit as much so. In a noteworthy scene, Brian, not in drag, ponders the impact Trixie has had on her fans, many of whom tell her they relate to her as people who have battled depression. Brian notes that he jokes about being sad, but he’s neither depressed nor a sad person, per se. That, I could relate to. It made Brian very endearing to me.
There’s also something refreshingly average about Brian, when he’s out of drag. He’s far from ugly, but arguably just as far from the chiseled muscle boys gay culture fetishizes. It underscores the skill and talent that goes into the extraordinary transformation into Trixie Mattel, every single thing about her elevated and exaggerated.
I did find myself thinking about what might ultimately set Trixie Mattel apart from any other perfectly good drag queen. Surely, a documentary every bit as compelling could have been made about, say, any other contestant from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Details could be singled out about their backgrounds just as moving, or heartbreaking, as Trixie’s. For example, when Brian is doing a radio interview by phone, and confirms that the name “Trixie” comes from the malicious nickname given to Brian as a child by an abusive stepfather.
There is one pretty key thing, it turns out. Trixie Mattel isn’t just a personification of Dolly Parton on acid. She’s a bona fide, accomplished musician — something rare among drag queens, who traditionally lip sync to other people’s prerecorded music. Brian Firkus is actually a songwriter, and a pretty good one. He’s not half bad as a singer, either.
Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts tracks Trixie’s rise to midlevel fame, both as a losing contestant and then a winning contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and then as a touring comedian-musician performing in venues all over the country. I found both Trixie and Brian so endearing, essentially being introduced to both through this film, that I might actually buy a ticket if Trixie ever comes back to Seattle.