BU Film School

Friday, September 09, 2005

FT 540 Reading: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Screenplay info
Written by: Stephan Elliott
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0109045

Mitzi performs. Crowd goes wild, wants encore. She waves good-bye, falls when hit by beer can. Felicia helps her off, talks back to hecklers. Backstage, phone rings for Tick (Mitzi). Flashback to hospital, doctor greeting Mitzi in full drag as Mr. Belrose.

Tick calls Bernadette, and learns that Trumpet's dead. Trumpet's funeral. Tick invites Bernadette to join him out of town for a gig. Bernadette eventually agrees. She says, "Here's hoping the desert is big enough for hte two of us ..." Tick: "Three of us." Bernadette's horrified that Adam's going too. Adam's dream: to climb Kings Canyon in dress, heels and a tiara. Bernadette: "Great. That's just what this country needs. A cock in a frock on a rock."

Adam locates a silver bus, christens it Priscilla.

Scenes of three packing. They pull out to much cheering from fellow queens, in stark contrast to more subdued launch of the jogging Logowoman. The three are at first enthusiastic, but quickly tire.

Tick, Adam gossip. Bernadette disapproves. Adam asks Tick if Bernadette's real name is Ralph. Tick shushes Adam.

That night, Adam toasts baby sausages. Bernadette and Tick lock him out of the bus.

The next day, a tired Adam drives. Bernadette tries to apply lipstick, but is foiled by Adam's braking, and eventually smears it on her face. Adam stops the bus suddenly, and all three look at their road, which stretches on and on through the desert. The bus is a tiny speck on the highway.

Tick reveals he's married. Flashback to wedding, with Marion in tails, Tick in dress. Marion had called him asking for help with entertainment. While playing snap, Adam teases Tick about the wedding. If Tick wins, Adam will never mention wife in Tick's presence again.

Mining city of Broken Hill. The three, in frocks and heels, walk down the main street. They take a room in a garish hotel. Adam had won the snap game, so they did one lap of the main drag in drag. The three go to a hotel bar, stunning the occupants into silence. Bernadette tries to order drinks, but a rugged woman named Shirley gives them hell. "We got nothing here for people like you. Nothing!" Bernadette issues a stinging retort, which cracks people up.

A party is in full swing at the bar. Felicia dances on the upright piano. Mitzi sells beauty products. Bernadette and Shirley have a drinking contest, which Bernadette wins. Felicia blurts out that Bernie's name is really Ralph. Bernadette goes after Adam in the hotel room, and he fights back. Mitzi passes out.

The next morning, Tick is hung over. Adam and Bernadette are still screaming at each other. They discover "AIDS fuckers go home" graffiti on the bus.

Adam buys a box at the gas station.

Tick spots a shortcut, which they take. Felicia rides on top of the bus.

Tick to Adam: "What sort of bent childhood did you grow up in, Adam Whiteley?" Flashback: Adam's uncle in bath. A 6-year-old Adam pulls the plug.

Night. Clunk! Priscilla stops running. Bernadette goes to look for help. Adam starts to repaint the bus lavender. Shots of Bernadette walking in the desert. Tick rehearses.

Bernadette flags down jeep (driven by pair of regular folks, on the older side). They drive back to camp. The couple is spooked by the three (Bernadette with dripping makeup, Tick in dress, Adam in hairnet) and quickly drives off. Adam to Mitzi: "How many times have I told you? Green is not your colour!"

Bernadette -- Trumpet a nice kid, better than nothing.

The three rehearse. They're spotted by an aboriginal man, who enjoyed the performance. He brings them to campfire. They perform, then get the aboriginal man to join them in drag, to much amusement and laughter.

Adam and Bernadette transform a hideous orange frock into a kite. Tick, spotting the kite, is able to guide Bob, a mechanic, to the bus. Bob says he can fix the engine for now, could pick up a new motor in Coober Pedy in a week -- won't work, since the three have six days to get to Alice Springs. Bob has them over at his house. Tension between him and Cynthia. Bob proposes that they perform in town. He'd actually seen Les Girls. Tick introduces Bernadette as the most famous of Les Girls. More tension between Bob and Cynthia -- she wants to perform, but he says that the visitors will, not her.

Bernadette, Mitzi, and Felicia are at the pub getting ready. Bob compliments them. Cynthia is at home, pissed off. She breaks the padlock on a cupboard with alcohol, ping-pong balls, etc.

Pub performance gets a mixed reaction. Only Bob claps. Cynthia appears, makes spectacle of herself, resists when Bob tries to get her away. She drives off, leaving him. The three start to leave. The bus chokes, but runs (barely). Tick offers Bob a ride to Coober Pedy. They go back to the main road. Adam to Bob: "We may wear the frocks around here, but that doesn't mean that you wear the pants."

Bob asks Bernadette why ... you know ... Flashback: Xmas. Ralph's sister opens a gift, it's a cement mixer. Ralph is already surrounded by dolls, tea sets, etc. He'd switched the cards on the gifts.

Bob works on the motor. Tick teaches Adam how to waltz. He'd learned it from Marion. Bernadette tells Bob that Tick bats for both teams, but Tick contradicts them. Adam -- so, we're straight then? Tick -- no. Adam -- oh, gay? Tick -- no. "Then what the hell are we?" Tick laughs. "I don't fucking know!" They're passed by Logowoman.

They arrive in Coober Pedy. Bob is meeting the boys at the drive-in for a few beers. Bernadette and Tick are going to supper -- Adam can either hang out with them or stay in his hotel room. Adam opens a purse and takes out some cocaine.

Bernadette and Tick talk over dinner. Tick says yes, he's thinking about children.

Felicia, finishing her cocaine, goes to video store, then to the drive-in. The men (except for Bob, who's mortified) are embarassed yet pleased that a woman's joined them. Frank offers Felicia a beer, then notices his hairy knuckles. Felicia throws beer, runs, and the men give chase. Bernadette and Tick spot Felicia running past the restaurant. Felicia is cornered. Frank hits him, has two chums spread Felicia's legs and prepares to kick him. Bob tries to intervene. Bernadette yells at Frank. Frank says for her to come on, rubs his croth. Bernadette kicks him in the crotch.

Tick yells at Adam. Adam cries, Bernadette consoles him. "I don't know if that ugly wall of suburbia has been put up to stop them getting in, or us getting out."

Flashback: Bob in Manila. He wakes up next to Cynthia, who insists she's his wife. He brought her home out of duty.

Campfire. Bernadette and Bob stay up drinking and talking. Adam and Tick eavesdrop, giggling. The next morning, Tick drives, Adam bangs pans together, Bernadette and Bob sit in the back, hung over.

They arrive at the hotel in Alice Springs, are greeted by the doorman. Tick meets Marion, then is led to his son, Benjamin. Fantasy flashback: Bernadette, Bob, and Adam are with Mitzi when the doctor addresses him as Mrs. Belrose. In both reality and fantasy, Bernadette faints.

As the three get ready for their show, Bernadette upbraids Mitzi for not telling them he had a son. Mitzi says that Benjamin doesn't know his father's a drag queen. Marion reassures Mitzi that Benjamin is asleep. Bob gives flowers to Bernadette.

The three perform, and experience a major letdown. The tourists applaud politely. Bob, Marion, and Benjamin clap enthusiastically. Mitizi faints.

Tick, embarrassed and angry, confronts Marion. He has no idea how to talk to Benjamin. Marion tells him she needs a break, and he needs to take Benjamin for a while: "I've kept my end of the bargain. Now it's your turn."

Bob brings flowers to Bernadette's room. Silent gaze.

Adam watches Benjamin, who stuns Adam by being totally at ease about Tick (boyfriend?) and Marion (had girlfriend).

The group goes to Kings Canyon. Everyone is in high spirits except for Tick (who's dressed rather masculinely for once). He's embarrassed by Marion's innuendos. They play charades, Benjamin is very good. Bernadette and Adam go to get frocked, but Tick refuses to go.

Tick, awkward, talks to Benjamin. He says they don't always do shows like that -- have different music. "Abba?" Benjamin asks. He's totally at ease, asks if Tick will have a boyfriend when they get back to Sydney. Tick is relieved and pleased.

The three in drag climb Kings Canyon, arrive at the top. It's a magnificent view. So, what now? Tick says, finish the shows and go home. Bernadette, after a slight pause, agrees.

A few weeks later, the three have finished their shows. Marion tells Tick not to hide a thing. "Morals are a choice, and he'll decide his own when he's good and bloody ready." Adam and Tick are ready to go, but Bernadette isn't. She's going to stay on and handle the guest entertainment while Marion's away. Tick and Adam divine the real reason: Bob. Tick, Adam and Benjamin leave (the latter two calling out, "Goodbye, Ralph!")

Tick and Adam perform in Sydney, to a loud and enthusiastic crowd (cheering, throwing things, etc.). Benjamin claps while perched on a man's shoulders. Tick: "It's good to be home."

My notes
-- road movie, but not typical one. Journey.
-- outlandish characters -- flawed -- drink, drugs (Adam), arguing. Personal conflicts.
-- after arrive, what now? Characters go back home.
-- lots of banter.
-- use of music -- transitions
-- setting -- desert beautiful, but not entirely welcoming

FT 540 notes (from 06/12/03)
-- outsiders, drag queens


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