Comedian, folk musician and drag queen Brian Firkus bares all in “Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts.”
The documentary follows Firkus, aka his drag persona Trixie Mattel, as he tours the globe promoting his album and competing in “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.”
Director Nicholas Zeig-Owens shows the pomp and pageantry of Trixie’s world and the reality behind the scenes, suiting up in a corset, workshopping jokes, the suitcases filled with sequins, nylons and wigs.
It’s the first feature-length documentary for Zeig-Owens (“Almost Family”). And, as a storyteller, he presents an intimate narrative of Firkus’ relationships with the drag community, music and himself. He also well juxtaposes the glamor of drag with footage of Firkus in a baseball cap and flannel playing the acoustic guitar solo.
Zeig-Owens wastes no time catching the uninitiated viewer up with Firkus’ humor and history.
“Want to know how gay I was?” asks Firkus in an opening scene. “This is me at the Packer Hall of Fame. I’m kneeling with pom-poms. There was no hope for me.”
Soon after, footage of Firkus watching his loss on an earlier season of “Drag Race.”
“At a drag show, especially, that is what the audience is there to see … this delusional confidence,” Firkus said, and he notes trying to reconcile fan expectation and criticism.
As the film progresses, Zeig-Owens peppers in deeper insights into the drag community, Firkus’ background and his impact on fans. He’s “an introvert dressed as an extrovert,” and Zeig-Owens nicely captures Firkus’ gifts and limitations.
In a later scene, a fan shares a traumatic experience at home. “It's people like you that helped me believe in myself,” he says, as Firkus side-steps with a joke.
It’s uncomfortable watching the deflection of emotion, but while Firkus has made a career out of humor, it means more to him than his bread and butter.
“Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts” also explores his relationship with friend, fellow drag queen and business partner Katya, and his struggle with mental health and sobriety.
Watching them play off each other onscreen and behind the scenes of “The Trixie & Katya Show,” you easily feel their comedic chemistry, and their affection and respect for each other.
The struggle of their changing relationship and the countdown to Firkus’ competition on “Drag Race: All Stars” are driving factors here that well hold attention and inform Trixie newbies.
While much of this is loud, bright and beautiful, the silent moments feel the most poignant.
At a “Drag Race” viewing party, awaiting to see whether he will win the $100,000 prize, Zeig-Owens closes in on Firkus exhaling deeply, looking down and then covering his face.
You feel the anticipation, the mixed emotions, and you’re in it with him.
Trixie Mattel is a gem, as is this documentary — both filled with light, laughter and enough earnestness to feed a pandemic-weary soul.
Starring: Brian Firkus
Director: Nicholas Zeig-Owens
Available: Amazon, Netflix
More info: trixiemattel.com