Friday, December 16, 2022

REVIEW: 'Canada's Drag Race: Canada vs. the World' - A Lackluster Acting Challenge Builds to a Solid Lip Sync in 'Spy Queens'

Crave's Canada's Drag Race: Canada vs. the World - Episode 1.05 "Spy Queens"

The queens star in the action-packed blockbuster film "Spy Queens." Guest judge is Joe Zee.

Every version of Drag Race ups the cringe factor when it comes to the acting challenges. The scripts are never good. That's intentional to a certain extent. The judges want to see how comfortable these queens are being completely silly and ridiculous. The artform itself shouldn't be seen as serious every single moment. That nuance can be lost from time to time mostly because of the opportunities now available to queens. Drag is still a political act though. It means something when a person bends gender norms to deliver a message. But it's also people dressing up in wigs and elaborate outfits. It's outrageous and weird. It should be celebrated as such. It's always better when a queen can explore the full gamut of emotions and expressions. It doesn't have to be pretty in order to be beautiful. The current iteration of the show overwhelmingly feels like it has to be positive all the time. That's not inherently bad. It lacks some of the immediate drama found in the early seasons. But it's also empowering to hear the queens pump each other up about how iconic and beautiful they are. Victoria and Silky don't want Vanity to be defeated because they chose her lipstick. She wasn't eliminated. Choices had to be made. They were difficult. They are grateful Vanity has another opportunity to shine. She is a fierce competitor. And yet, the acting challenges only come natural to a select few. Silky talks about wanting to be on Grey's Anatomy one day. However, the acting required here is far different than what would be required on that medical drama. It can certainly go on Silky's reel for auditions. But it's the overall package that reveals how great these queens are. They are judged in challenges to whittle their numbers down to the lip sync smackdown in the finale. Sometimes the judging is far and obvious. Other times, questionable decisions are made.

When filming starts on the challenge, it's clear right away that Vanity is the weakest link. She struggles. She didn't receive the part she wanted. She tried seeing that as a blessing because it would require less lines to memorize. However, the amount of takes she needs before getting it right is pointed out in such an extreme way. The technical aspects of the job don't come naturally to her on this particular set. She is criticized mostly because she doesn't walk in with confidence. Rita knew she would have a blast during this challenge. She went in with that mindset. She knew she was good at this. Everyone else bought into that argument. And so, they had fun watching her no matter what she did. Vanity was told she was doing things wrong when she was breaking the fourth wall. When Rita did it though, it only added to the hilarity of the situation. Part of that also comes from Rita knowing the contours of the joke. She found a way to enhance the punchline. That's a crucial skill. Vanity couldn't find the precise moments to pop. Instead, she was struggling to simply get the lines out in a way that allowed the overall story to be cohesive. All of this is in contrast to Victoria who leads with the most consistency. She provides levels and layers to her performance. However, she doesn't go to the extremes in order to get the point across. Sure, people are upset about the roles given to them. Victoria knew exactly what she wanted. She hoped everyone else would be happy with her. They could find ways to make it work. They did. Of course, nothing in this acting challenge was particularly memorable. Silky and Victoria shared another kiss. That was used as a criticism for Silky while the judges skipped over Victoria's role in it completely. It takes two to produce that moment. However, the judges were forgiving with Victoria because she was great elsewhere. With Silky, she just didn't stand out. That's strange for her. It's something that can happen despite her big personality. That's what led to her elimination on All Stars 6. It's what is dampening Ra'Jah's odds of winning the crown here. Some of that is all in the editing. But it still requires the queens to provide that energy to production in order for a story to be made.

The talk in the workroom the next day immediately revealed that plenty of colors would be coming down the runway. It was especially noticeable with Victoria as her face was painted green. The theme is "Y2Gay." They are asked to present as club kids from the early 2000s. Rita and Victoria understood the assignment better than the others. In a week where they also did well in the challenge, it was a no-brainer that they would win. Victoria's look was very creative and inventive even though she broke the set as she was coming out. That move just didn't work for her. She at least regained her composure and sold it. Rita also had a phenomenal presentation. The illusion was better when she was inside the box. However, the metaphor only works if she eventually breaks out of it. Of the other three, Vanity looked absolutely stunning. Sure, Brooke Lynn was reaching in trying to explain how it fit the category. It was still a high fashion look that will definitely be remembered as one of the strongest runways of the season. Silky and Ra'Jah flopped. Silky worn a body suit and carried oversized props. The idea wasn't bad. Crafty can be an unfair criticism at times. It's apt in this situation though. It simply didn't reach the standards everyone expects from Silky. It reads as her pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. That's understandable with limited resources. It simply comes at an awkward time in the competition. Ra'Jah's look also failed to meet the runway criteria. It's still amazing that she creates a ton of her looks. However, so many of them ultimately take the same shape. Performing in the world, it's good to have a signature. On the runway though, the judges and viewer expect variety. Ra'Jah has plenty of creativity. She just hasn't pushed herself. She's now the one seemingly trapped in a box.

It's incredibly impressive that Victoria has now won the last three challenges. She has made it to the finale without ever being up for elimination. She's the only queen who can say that after Silky finds herself in that position this week. Some tension comes from the possibility of eliminating her now. However, the season has built up the connection Silky has with Victoria and Rita. That made it seem impossible for them to go through with that shocking betrayal. Victoria chose Vanity's lipstick once already. That showed how there was no bond amongst the UK queens that transcended everything else in the competition. Silky couldn't make herself choose Ra'Jah's lipstick. Of course, she also wanted a private moment with Vanity to talk instead of sharing it with the rest of the group. That's somewhat shady and shows how Silky likes to play by her own rules. Again, this competition is looking for trailblazers. However, the queens still have to largely fit in with the perimeters of the series. That contrast sometimes hurts more than it helps with an individual episode's effectiveness. It helps to have an amazing lip sync in the end. Anyone with low expectations of Rita as a performer obviously didn't see her original season. She delivered a killer rendition of Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" there. Of course, Estelle's "Freak" plays in a completely different genre. However, it served as further evidence of Rita knowing the precise energy to bring. She also genuinely looked like she was having fun. It's no longer the artificial narrative frequently pushed onto her. Instead, the audience could see it. Victoria held her own. Rita had better command of the lyrics and brought variety to the moves she performed. Her alliance with Silky made Vanity the obvious elimination. She will still be missed immensely. Vanity brought a message to this platform. She found stronger camaraderie in drag than ever before. Hopefully, that leads to even more confidence and conviction in the future.