It was surprisingly good, that Glee movie.
About ten minutes into the review screening of the surprisingly moving and not-so-surprisingly entertaining Glee concert movie, I whispered to the Gleek I was allowed to bring, “This is gayer than a leather man in an Easter bonnet.” The hit TV show about a high school show choir from which the concert movie sprang is also pretty gay, not just because it features a half dozen gay or bisexual characters, but because it’s unabashedly flamboyant, over-dramatic, ironic, heartfelt, and camp. And this is all a good thing: despite its inconsistencies and missteps, Glee is fabulous TV.
But the concert movie (which is inexplicably and unnecessarily in 3-D) goes beyond just re-staging performances of some of the shows most famous numbers; much of the film is about Glee’s fans, or Gleeks. While, yes, there are straight male fans of Glee (or so I’ve heard), most Gleeks are women, especially young ones, and gay men. This is pretty clear from interviews of concert goers and shots of them dancing and cheering. But the in-depth interviews of three Gleeks which run through the whole film are not focused on stuff like “OMG! BLAINE IS SO CUTE!” Rather, they are about how the show has inspired them.
One of the three is a young gay man, but the other two are just as queer – they’re just as different. Reed, the gay man, was bullied in school, and he learned from the character of Kurt (Chris Colfer) to be proud of who he was, even if he was alone. Janae, a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, isolated herself from the world until she met Heather Morris (who plays Brittany), whose kindness inspired her to be a better person and try to inspire others. And the third, Josey, is a cheerleader – “a real life Cheerio,” referencing the nickname for cheerleaders in Glee — who is also a dwarf. She is one of the most popular kids at her school, both in spite of and because of her difference.
The central conceit of Glee is the celebration of, the owning of your own difference. It would seem self-congratulatory of Glee’s producers to show how profoundly affected its fans were (see, for example, the Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana movies) if the effects were not so profoundly moving.
Oh, and the concert? That’s pretty great, too. One of the most common and pointed criticism of Glee is the overuse of the computer program Autotune to fix the pitch of any off-key singing from the cast. No one, especially not high school students, sound that good all of the time. It was hard for me to tell if the live singing was autotuned, but it didn’t seem to be lip-synced, which, to me, matters more. The best singers – Lea Michele (Rachel), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Colfer, Kevin McHale (Arties), and Darren Criss (Blaine) – sound great, even when they’re dancing. But the weaker singers, in particular Cory Monteith (Finn) and Diana Agron (Quinn), are conveniently overshadowed by the music, which seemed to have been deliberately amped up to drown out their vocals.
As in the TV show, the group numbers in the film tend to be more spectacular than the solos (though Riley and Michele’s are both stunning). Both the opener, their signature version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” and the closer, a recreation of their inspired rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” showcase great choreography and cast chemistry. The three songs Criss and his army of a capella singing, perfectly synched back-up dancers are given in the middle of the film are another highlight, as they were in the show last year.
That Criss’s Blaine, who plays Kurt’s boyfriend, is now a teen heartthrob makes me hopeful. But not as hopeful, even overjoyed, as I felt hearing the screening audience’s reaction to Reed saying that he is now proud to say that he’s gay. Three-quarters of the theater were kids from Chula Vista High School. They cheered for Reed.
Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen
Starring Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith
At your local multiplex