I Am Divine ***Dir: Jeffrey Schwarz. With: Divine, John Waters, Mink Stole. 90 mins. Cert: 15
Among its achievements, this tribute to the 300-pound transvestite who became the muse of the midnight-movie scene moves us beyond one hard-to-shake image: that of its subject devouring dog poop at the close of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. Director Jeffrey Schwarz instead pursues the man behind the mascara, uncovering one Glenn Milstead: a chunky kid, bullied into the fringes, who came to channel any resentment into cheeringly confrontational spectacle. Whether barracking clubbers or being raped by giant plastic lobsters, Divine had colour enough for fifty films, yet Schwarz weights the camp against a sincere appreciation of both the obvious, larger-than-life personality and this performer’s oft-overlooked skill: he makes moving Milstead’s reconciliation with his family, and something suitably crowning from 1988’s Hairspray. The interviewees (including the Waters mob, frothing with funny, salty anecdotes) express a whole lot of love for Divine – but then, as this entertaining biog eternally illustrates, Divine was a whole lotta woman.
I Am Divine is now playing in selected cinemas.