Victor Victoria (1982)

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“Boys are boys from the beginning / Girls are girls right from the start / Everybody’s fancy, everybody’s fine / Your body’s fancy and so is mine” –Fred Rogers, “Everybody’s Fancy” song

Victor Victoria is about a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. A singer in Paris can’t land any roles as a soprano, and she is lead to believe she will have better luck if she cheats the drag queen system by cutting her hair short, strapping down her breasts, and posing as a gay performer.

The premise is intriguing, but it becomes hilarious when you consider the fact that Julie Andrews – the strong, independent babe Julie Andrews – is the protagonist. First of all, the thought of a vocalist like Julie not being able to find a job singing in a piano bar is so funny because it’s impossible. Second, Julie Andrews makes such a great woman, it’s fascinating to watch her take on the comedic challenge of creating a degree of separation between herself and womanhood. Personally, I could never see her as a man when she was supposed to be one. Maybe I couldn’t get The Sound of Music and The Princess Diaries out of my head.

Blake Edwards, who married Julie Andrews in 1969, directed the film. I am so happy that Julie and Blake ended up together; as you become familiar with Blake’s movies, you can just tell he is a really charming director and human being. While watching Victor Victoria, I realized that you can anticipate a director’s choices if you know his or her work. For example, there is a scene where pandemonium breaks out inside a Parisian cafe because Victoria brings in a live cockroach to try to get a free meal, and it escapes. At the height of the craziness the directer cuts to a wide shot on the quiet street outside, and we just watch everything happen through the windows…

During this shot, I remembered how Blake Edwards uses wide shots for comedy his Pink Panther movies. There’s also a scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are shoplifting a couple of masks from a five-and-ten store. The buildup of the meticulously choreographed scene shows the two trying to figure out what they can lift out of the store. It ends with a wide shot outside as they pop through the doors and run across the street with their stolen animal masks.

I thought to myself, “If I know Blake Edwards, we’re just going to see Victoria and Toddy slip out of the cafe while things continue to escalate through the windows.” And that’s exactly what happens. The unexpected moments become more expected after you’ve seen a lot of movies (especially from a particular director), but that doesn’t make those moments any less special or funny.

While I could end by talking about gender, the movie is more generally about being true to who you are as a person. Victoria decides to sing from the heart instead of what the audience wants to hear and what will bring in big money. After moving to Los Angeles, I have struggled between the two questions, “What do people expect me to do with my life?” and “What do I want to do with my life?”

I am still trying to nail down that answer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll stay a boy while I figure it out.

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