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‘Chrissy Judy’ Review: Queer Director Todd Flaherty Explores What Happens When Chosen Family No Longer Chooses You

A dark comedy set in black-and-white that examines change through the perspective of a lonely drag queen...

By Matthew Creith

“You think you’re the main character, you think every decision I make is somehow about you. It’s not.”

Chrissy and Judy are aging drag queens living in New York. They are best friends and partners in crime. They have long joined forces in their performances together and have cultivated a small following in the big city. But, Chrissy springs some news on Judy that doesn’t go over well: He’s moving to Philadelphia to live with his boyfriend and start a new life away from drag.

But what is Judy without Chrissy? The thought of a solo act for Judy seems like an impossible task and a change he isn’t looking forward to embracing. Ambitious as he is, Judy finds reinventing himself and his performances an ordeal full of booze, boys, and debauchery that gets old relatively fast. Is the idea of stability that Chrissy preaches ever going to appeal to someone like Judy, or will he continue down the same uneventful path he’s created for himself since the two were younger?

Judy is a bit of a free spirit and daydreamer, but with priorities shifting dramatically, it’s difficult for him to accept his new reality. Cater waiter by day and drag performer by night, Judy is dealing with his old life crumbling beneath him. But what should he do when his chosen family no longer chooses him?

Chrissy Judy is presented in black-and-white, but don’t let that stop you from thinking this film isn’t colorful. The cattiness of its leads is played up like a summer vacation with one’s favorite gay best friends. Stereotypical as it is, the characters feel lived in and highly entertaining. As Chrissy and Judy travel down a road of great transition separately, their surroundings feel more constrained as the film progresses. A lively soundtrack and electric performances spark great joy amongst the sometimes sorrowful sequences.

The film had its world premiere at the Provincetown Film Festival and screened at OutFest, NewFest, and other festivals globally. Costarring as Chrissy is the exquisitely handsome Wyatt Fenner, while the movie is supported by performances from James Tison, Olivia Oguma, Nicole Spiezio, and Kiyon Spencer. Joey Taranto graces audiences with an unattainable love interest for Judy, masculine and appealing to many of Judy’s weaknesses. 

Todd Flaherty is a renaissance man with Chrissy Judy, as the film is very much made in his particular brand, tone, and speed. As the director, writer, producer, editor, and star, this is his movie more than anyone else’s. Flaherty is skilled in his artistic endeavors, showcasing the imperfections of living in New York while mystifying it with great emotion and energy. Portraying Judy, he perfectly encapsulates the dark comedy themes the film projects without sacrificing story over substance. 

Pop culture references are transported into dialogue in an authentic and relatable way. Everyone is attractive and nuanced in this flick without feeling like an imitation of someone else’s work. The movie feels as though it was made in the 1940s with modern undertones and romantic comedy energy, often profoundly moving. It’s sexy and sweet, which is not a combination that independent cinema typically provides, but it’s a welcome treat primarily due to Flaherty’s sense of realized humor. Flaherty displays a confident and daring approach, subverts clichés, and is flawless in his execution as director and star. It’s thrilling to see him come into his own and find a movie that works for his perspective.

At the heart of Chrissy Judy is the concept of queer friendships and partnerships, coexisting within a world full of people that judge practically everything about them. Drag culture, and the hierarchy inside the industry is explored, using Judy contending with his new life without the dependent strength of Chrissy as a backdrop for the profession. This dark comedy masterfully portrays the exploration of a vulnerable character and his unfulfilled prospects, which cinematographer Brendan Flaherty beautifully captures.

Chrissy Judy is currently available to rent on all Canadian video on demand platforms including iTunes.

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