June 25, 2024 4:34 pm

Solo
Solo

Solo

Under the glare of fuschia neon lights Simon (Théodore Pellerin) is twirling. ABBA’s “Voulez-Vous” is blaring, and a perfectly placed fan is blowing his blonde wig around in all the right ways. He is the center of the universe, and no one can convince him, or us, otherwise. “Solo,” the third directorial effort from Sophie Dupuis (as well as her third project working with Pellerin), is all about performance: the shows we put on for entertainment and the ones we mount for self-preservation.

“Solo” is centered in Montreal’s drag scene, and Simon, a makeup artist by day, is on the venue’s main lineup of drag queens by night, sporting original designs by his sister, Maude (Alice Moreault) for his shows (though in reality, we have the incredible work of costume designer Cédric Quenneville to thank). But beyond the shine and attention he receives on stage, Simon yearns for love. When a new performer, Olivier (Félix Maritaud), joins the club, he and Simon strike up a whirlwind love affair that’s passionate at best and volatile at worst. And whilst juggling this love, Simon is also confronted by the return of his mother, estranged 15 years, who moved to Europe to pursue her own artistry as an opera singer. Pining for validation and affection from both, Simon becomes pliable to the forces around him, and is set on an involuntary war path to find his worth.

Pellerin’s diverse and moving performance is by far the shining star of “Solo.” Simon is marked mostly by tenderness, and Pellerin’s expressive eyes capture all the care and passion that brims within him desperate for a safe space to let out. Maritaud as Olivier is fantastically frustrating, locked into an at-first heartwarming chemistry with Pellerin, placing his finger on the pulse of Olivier’s manipulative arrogance with equal emotional accuracy. 

Dupuis’s script is wonderfully tapped into the connection between Simon’s heart and artistry, using his drag performances to illustrate his states of being. From illuminating solo performances to a spectrum of duets with Olivier, and a heartbreaking operatic tribute to his mother, each set is its own diary entry in the film. However, the writing sputters in its transitions. Whether from onstage to off or emotional highs to lows, “Solo” often hard cuts from the end of one to the middle of the other, giving both whiplash and confusion throughout the run time. Though these transitions eventually make their way to clarity, the suddenness of the initial impact is a frequent hurdle we are made to jump.

The film bursts with energy from the neon and bass of the dopamine-filled club and warm, sunlit moments at home to clenching, devastating tears shed in dejection. “Solo” is above all a portrait of an artist. Simon molds his artistry and identity as any creative does, through emotional wreckage and redemption, self-discovery, and insatiable passion for his craft. Through Dupuis’s eye, this story is empathetic and involved, and this feeling persists despite disorganization’s attempt to shake its structure. At its heart is a reverence for the art and culture of drag, and the ambition of “Solo” is an exciting preview to what bother Dupuis and Pellerin have to offer.

Under the glare of fuschia neon lights Simon (Théodore Pellerin) is twirling. ABBA’s “Voulez-Vous” is blaring, and a perfectly placed fan is blowing his blonde wig around in all the right ways. He is the center of the universe, and no one can convince him, or us, otherwise. “Solo,” the third directorial effort from Sophie Dupuis (as well as her third project working with Pellerin), is all about performance: the shows we put on for entertainment and the ones we mount for self-preservation. “Solo” is centered in Montreal’s drag scene, and Simon, a makeup artist by day, is on the venue’s main lineup of drag queens by night, sporting original designs by his sister, Maude (Alice Moreault) for his shows (though in reality, we have the incredible work of costume designer Cédric Quenneville to thank). But beyond the shine and attention he receives on stage, Simon yearns for love. When a new performer, Olivier (Félix Maritaud), joins the club, he and Simon strike up a whirlwind love affair that’s passionate at best and volatile at worst. And whilst juggling this love, Simon is also confronted by the return of his mother, estranged 15 years, who moved to Europe to pursue her own artistry as an opera singer. Pining for validation and affection from both, Simon becomes pliable to the forces around him, and is set on an involuntary war path to find his worth. Pellerin’s diverse and moving performance is by far the shining star of “Solo.” Simon is marked mostly by tenderness, and Pellerin’s expressive eyes capture all the care and passion that brims within him desperate for a safe space to let out. Maritaud as Olivier is fantastically frustrating, locked into an at-first heartwarming chemistry with Pellerin, placing his finger on the pulse of Olivier’s manipulative arrogance with equal emotional accuracy.  Dupuis’s script is wonderfully tapped into the connection between Simon’s heart and artistry, using his drag performances to illustrate his states of being. From illuminating solo performances to a spectrum of duets with Olivier, and a heartbreaking operatic tribute to his mother, each set is its own diary entry in the film. However, the writing sputters in its transitions. Whether from onstage to off or emotional highs to lows, “Solo” often hard cuts from the end of one to the middle of the other, giving both whiplash and confusion throughout the run time. Though these transitions eventually make their way to clarity, the suddenness of the initial impact is a frequent hurdle we are made to jump. The film bursts with energy from the neon and bass of the dopamine-filled club and warm, sunlit moments at home to clenching, devastating tears shed in dejection. “Solo” is above all a portrait of an artist. Simon molds his artistry and identity as any creative does, through emotional wreckage and redemption, self-discovery, and insatiable passion for his craft. Through Dupuis’s eye, this story is empathetic and involved, and this feeling persists despite disorganization’s attempt to shake its structure. At its heart is a reverence for the art and culture of drag, and the ambition of “Solo” is an exciting preview to what bother Dupuis and Pellerin have to offer. Read More