Freak Show | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Freak Show

Alex Lawther is the bright spot in this coming-of-age comedy

After his beloved (but boozy) mom (Bette Midler) goes to rehab, teenager Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) relocates to his estranged dad’s mansion, located somewhere in the South. There, Billy attends a fancy high school (curiously named for Ulysses S. Grant), where conformity and football reign. Undaunted, Billy, who loves glam and cross-dressing, arrives for his first day of school dressed as Boy George, circa 1984. Unsurprisingly, he is tormented and bullied — badly, enough to end up in the hospital. Still, he makes a couple of friends, and somehow, in the face of so many obstacles and broken body parts, decides to take a new, and grander, stand: running for homecoming queen. Most of this coming-of-age film, directed by Trudie Styler, is played for gentle laughs, though there are the expected after-school-special messages about being kind, and being true to yourself, and so on. Lawther, who you might have seen in Black Mirror (“Shut Up and Dance”) or the recent Netflix series The End of the F***ing World, is truly the bright spot in this work. 

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