Review | ‘Miss’ explores gender identity through the lens of pageantry

Miss | Dir: Ruben Alves | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

This French film begins in 2004 when a young boy stands in front of his class and declares that his dream is to be crowned Miss France. This is greeted with sniggers and laughter as it is not something little boys are meant to be aspiring to. Fast forward fifteen years and 24-year-old Alex (Alexandre Wetter) still has the same aspiration.

After surviving a number of foster homes after his parents were killed in a car accident, Alex now lives with his chosen family of misfits. Yolande (Isabelle Nanty) rents rooms to flamboyant aging transgender sex worker Lola (Thibaut de Monalembert), an Indian seamstresses and a couple of young guys dreaming of having a start-up computer business.

Bumping into a former classmate Elias (Quentin Faure), who is now a boxing champion, is a turning point as, apart from improving his boxing skills, Alex develops the courage to enter the beauty competition.

As an aside, the first transgender contestant representing her country in a Miss Universe contest was 27-year-old Angela Ponce who represented Spain in 2018. Alex points out that he is not transgender, as in a woman born in a man’s body, but he is a man who wants to celebrate his femininity by attaining this seemingly impossible external validation.

Gender non-conforming model Alexandre Wetter is absolutely divine as his character seeks to liberate his femininity through an antiquated and problematic competition that is fortunately able to poke fun at itself. Wetter began questioning his identity through performance while studying art as it was a safe way to go. Loved by the camera, he has worked as a female- and male-presenting model, but had to lose 10kg to conform to the ‘Miss’ criteria for his first outing as an actor.

Miss screens as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival which runs from Wednesday 10 March until Wednesday 7 April at Palace Raine Square, Luna Leederville, Windsor Cinema, Luna on SX and Camelot Outdoor Cinema. See for more details.

Lezly Herbert

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