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‘Chrissy Judy’ shows how to step out on one’s own

“Chrissy Judy” (2022). Cast: Todd Flaherty, Wyatt Fenner, Joey Taranto, Kiyon Spencer, James Tison, Nicole Spiezio, João Pedro Santos. Director: Todd Flaherty. Screenplay: Todd Flaherty. Web site. Trailer.

Stepping up to the forefront to establish oneself as a readily identifiable quantity can be a daunting prospect. There may be a temptation to hold back, buying into the notion that there’s safety in numbers. But will such a cautious approach get us noticed or, more importantly, leave us feeling fulfilled? Those are among the issues raised in the delightful new LGBTQ+ comedy, “Chrissy Judy.”

Chrissy Snowkween (Wyatt Fenner) and Judy Blewhim (Todd Flaherty) are a drag queen sister act – and not a terribly successful one, either. But, in many ways, that doesn’t really matter to them. When they’re not performing in little-known clubs in New York and on Fire Island, the besties party their way across Gotham and its environs, living a life of fun and frolic. They have a great time together, despite their dismal reviews, woeful booking history and virtually nonexistent income stream, forcing them into taking day jobs to make ends meet. But that’s OK, given that they have one another, their devoted friendship sustaining them through the seemingly endless lean times.

That all changes, however, after a disappointing Fire Island gig, when Chrissy announces she’s relocating to Philadelphia to move in with her boyfriend, Shawn (Kiyon Spencer). While Judy wants the best for her stage sister and running mate, she’s quietly stunned by this revelation, wondering what it means for the future of their act and their uninhibited social life. So, as Chrissy moves on to discover her destiny in the City of Brotherly Love, Judy is left behind in the Big Apple, trying to figure out what’s next.

Judy struggles to launch a solo act, but it fares poorly, making her routine with Chrissy look like an unqualified smash by comparison. She subsequently seeks to bolster her career by cozying up to her friend Samoa (James Tison), a well-connected LGBTQ+ community influencer, in hopes that he can help her land performance jobs that will raise her profile. Of course, being the fussbudget that he is, Samoa attaches strings to his offer of assistance, most notably that Judy refrain from interfering with any of his prospective sexual dalliances, particularly the possibilities pending with Marcus (Joey Taranto), a bona fide hunk who Judy met previously at one of her shows. The temptation turns out to be too great for Judy to contain, leading to a flirtation with Marcus that Samoa witnesses, quickly bringing the influencer’s offer of help to an end.

In the wake of this disappointment, Judy seeks solace in her social life, primarily in her efforts to secure the company of men. Marcus is at the top of that list, but Judy quickly finds that hormones alone are a pale substitute for genuine companionship. So, given her lack of professional success and personal fulfillment, as well as being without the companionship of her BFF, Judy feels lonesome and adrift.

That void is seemingly filled, however, when Chrissy invites Judy to Philadelphia for a visit. The reunion of besties starts out well, but trouble emerges when Judy begins engaging in unbridled sniping, criticizing Chrissy’s choices regarding her friends, her partner and her new lifestyle, not to mention her decision to “abandon” their act in favor of what Judy sees as an uninspired, mediocre, compromised existence. So much for the “forever” in BFF.

While on their way to a gig on Fire Island, drag queen sisters and BFFs Chrissy Snowkween (Wyatt Fenner, left) and Judy Blewhim (Todd Flaherty, right) enjoy a pleasant moment in advance of a stunning revelation, as seen in the delightful comedy, “Chrissy Judy.” Photo courtesy of Undetectable Productions, LLC.

With the foundation of her life effectively demolished, Judy is left without a clue about where to turn next, especially when her roommate, Jessica (Nicole Spiezio), informs her that she’s behind on rent and issues an ultimatum. It’s at that point, when the last straw finally falls, that Judy takes a radical step: She decides to move to Provincetown, MA, the premier LGBTQ+ summertime resort, taking a job as a housekeeper at one of the town’s many gay guest houses. It’s a place of refuge for Judy, removing her from all of the influences that no longer serve her and providing her with an opportunity to work on developing her solo drag queen act, one that she rolls out at some of the local performance venues.

So will Judy’s decision prove fruitful? Can she become the solo performer she dreams about? Will she be able to stand on her own, both personally and professionally? And will this provide her with the satisfaction she seeks to lead a fulfilling life? That’s a lot to hope for, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable, provided we put our minds to it.

Putting our minds to it, of course, begins with the beliefs we hold about ourselves, our lives and our possibilities, for they play a key role in the manifestation of the existence we experience. These are the products of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains these resources provide the basis of our reality, for better or worse. It’s unclear whether Judy has ever heard of this school of thought, but, based on how circumstances unfold in her life, it would seem she has developed a good handle on its principles.

In Judy’s case, this doesn’t come about on the first try. It’s a process of trial and error, implementing different sets of beliefs to see which ones work and which ones don’t. In the end, it comes down to hitting on those that best reflect our true selves, materializing as outward expressions of what we think, feel and believe deep down inside our consciousness. It may take some time to discover what those beliefs are, but, when we do, it’s like hitting a proverbial home run, enabling us to become who we were meant to be and fulfilling the destiny we were meant to live out.

In an effort to launch a solo act, drag queen Judy Blewhim (Todd Flaherty) searches for just the right look for herself, as seen in writer-director Todd Flaherty’s debut feature, “Chrissy Judy.” Photo courtesy of Undetectable Productions, LLC.

For Judy, to a great degree, that means stepping out on her own, both literally and metaphorically. For the longest time, she saw herself necessarily tied to Chrissy. It’s almost as if she felt compelled to be part of a duo, that she somehow couldn’t function on her own, both socially and as a performer. There could be any number of reasons for this, but insecurity and a lack of confidence most readily come to mind. And, if those qualities were adequately backed by beliefs making that possible, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they would manifest externally.

This helps to explain why Judy and Chrissy ultimately had to part ways. No matter how much affinity and affection they may have had for one another, Chrissy was holding Judy back, and Judy allowed this scenario to hold sway. It kept her from not only moving forward with her life, but also from even tapping into the beliefs that would have made personal and professional progress possible.

In a sense, the same could be said for Judy holding back Chrissy from getting on with her life. Considering Chrissy’s devoted relationship with Shawn, she was obviously meant to lead a more settled, domestic existence than to continue as a hard-partying, unsuccessful drag queen. But Chrissy’s ongoing involvement with Judy was preventing that change from happening, and continuing to run the streets couldn’t go on forever if she were to fulfill that cherished dream. When Chrissy at last decided to pursue that new existence, she had to have changed her beliefs to make it possible, regardless of whatever consequences that may have had for her friendship with Judy.

However, Chrissy’s decision – no matter how selfish it may have seemed to Judy – simultaneously provided Judy with the nudge she needed to change tracks in her beliefs. The same is true for what happened in her dealings with Samoa, Marcus and Jessica, all of whom put up roadblocks to keep Judy from staying on paths that likely would have proved unsuccessful in the long run. These disappointments and setbacks – as trying as they may have been – ultimately helped Judy stay focused on getting what she truly wanted.

Drag queen Judy Blewhim (Todd Flaherty) creates a dynamic stage presence to distinguish herself as a bona fide solo performer in the delightful LGBTQ+ comedy, “Chrissy Judy.” Photo courtesy of Undetectable Productions, LLC.

These developments, in turn, prompted Judy to make the right decisions – both in terms of her beliefs and actions – with regard to eliminating any fears and limitations that were holding her back. Her decisions to rid herself of these obstacles not only removed these hindrances, but they also helped empower her in her convictions. That’s essential to realizing our goals, and we’re likely to be grateful to ourselves for developing that talent on our way to achieving those objectives. As Judy so aptly illustrates for us, it’s enough to make us want to break into song.

Are BFFs really forever? We might like to think so, but, given the inevitability of change, such permanence might be an illusion, especially when we realize that it can hinder us in fulfilling the dreams we hold dear. Such is the kind of high drama that unfolds in this deliciously funny debut feature from writer-director Todd Flaherty. The film’s crisp screenplay, gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and fine performances by its excellent ensemble cast combine to make for a compelling, enjoyable watch, a project that in many ways plays like a gay version of a Woody Allen film. It touches on themes that many offerings in the LGBTQ+ genre seldom explore, such as gay male friendships, personal responsibility and living life outside the club scene. Also, while the picture includes many familiar gay community elements, it successfully avoids presenting them as clichés and stereotypes, often by taking those recognizable components and turning them on their ear. This delightful release proved to be a very pleasant surprise and my favorite offering from the 2022 Reeling International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, as well as one of my favorite pictures of the year.

Unfortunately, “Chrissy Judy” has yet to receive widespread release, which may make it somewhat difficult to find at this time. The picture has primarily played at LGBTQ+ film festivals, but it genuinely deserves wider distribution. Should you have an opportunity to screen this release, please do. It’s a fun and inspiring watch, especially for those seeking to fulfill their dreams.

Standing in the shadows can enable us to feel protected under potentially threatening circumstances. But it can also keep us from being seen, a definite drawback for those who choose goals that call for them to be squarely in the limelight. This may require some difficult choices, such as letting go of things – like relationships – that potentially hold us back. But, if we truly believe in these dreams, these are the necessary steps we must take. And, when we examine the payoffs that come from such decisions, we’re likely to look back on them as wise choices that take us to where we wanted to be. And that’s anything but a drag.

Copyright © 2022-2023, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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