A drag queen duo casts artifice aside to embrace emotional vulnerability in “Chrissy Judy,” a charming indie comedy that explores the challenges of finding — and maintaining — a chosen family.
Written and directed by Todd Flaherty, “Chrissy Judy” will have its West Coast debut Friday as part of Outfest Los Angeles following a sold-out world premiere at the Provincetown International Film Festival last month.
The movie’s title refers to the drag names of its two gay male protagonists, Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner) and Judy (Flaherty). Together, the pair eke out a living in New York through odd jobs and the occasional nightclub gig. They’re also best friends with a sincere, if occasionally codependent, bond that runs deep.
With audiences at their live shows dwindling, Chrissy opts to scrap his stage act with Judy to pursue a committed relationship with his on-again, off-again boyfriend, Shawn (Kiyon Spencer) in Philadelphia. Not surprisingly, the move leaves Judy adrift, and he’s forced to reexamine his personal and professional priorities after having come to rely on Chrissy as a source of moral support.
“Chrissy Judy” has its campy moments, but the movie’s rumination on the complexity of chosen families, and what happens when those relationships fracture, is relatable and heartfelt. Both Fenner and Flaherty deliver performances that are refreshingly nuanced, despite the theatricality of their characters’ livelihoods.
Catch the trailer for “Chrissy Judy” below.
Flaherty, who is based in Massachusetts, shot all of “Chrissy Judy” with a minimal crew under strict COVID-19 protocols last summer. He got the idea for his debut feature after growing frustrated with LGBTQ-inclusive films that were confined to narratives about coming out or unrequited love.
“Those stories are valid and there are many ways we can continue to tell them, but I wanted to explore the depths and importance of queer friendships in a way I hadn’t seen represented on film,” Flaherty told HuffPost. “I wanted to look at the life of a queer person who questions why we place a higher value on romantic relationships over platonic friendships.”
He continued: “We’ve all had friendships we thought would last forever that, for one reason or another, didn’t. Ultimately Judy has to forge his own path in life. I think that journey is pretty universal.”
“Chrissy Judy” isn’t a road trip story, but it makes stunning use of recognizable locations, with scenes that shift seamlessly from Manhattan’s urban rush to the quaint and quirky beach community of Provincetown, Massachusetts. The entire movie is shot in black and white, giving it a stylish, European art-house feel ― a choice Flaherty said he made to emphasize Judy’s quiet moments of self-reflection while spending a significant chunk of his time on-screen in drag.
If all goes according to plan, “Chrissy Judy” will continue to make its way along the film festival circuit this fall following its Outfest engagement, after which Flaherty hopes to secure wider distribution.
While elements of “Chrissy Judy” recall his real-life experiences, he stresses that the movie as a whole isn’t autobiographical.
“I like to tell people that I am Chrissy and Judy,” he said. “Writing this film was a way for me to explore my own feelings on a few intense friendships that I had in my 20s, ones that dwindled after the introduction of a budding romance. But more importantly, the film was a chance to explore my conflicting feelings on my desire to be in a heteronormative, monogamous relationship and my need to continue my life as a queer artist [who] didn’t follow a traditional life path.”
“Chrissy Judy” will be screened July 15 at Outfest Los Angeles.