Review of “Drool”

The most offbeat "family road trip comedy" since Little Miss Sunshine, with as much pure, unadulterated zaniness as a John Waters film, Drool is one of the darkest and most bizarre queer comedies in recent memory. Written and directed by Nancy Kissim, the film has roots in the wacky creativity of the Slamdance film festival – and it shows.

We begin with a high school girl (Tabitha, played by Ashley Duggan Smith), agreeing to an impromptu sexual act with the school jock. She’s as feisty as she is apparently promiscuous, a sort of proto-loner with a notebook full of doodles and a home life as messed-up as a real life Kelly Bundy.

Tabby narrates the entire film, beginning with a guided tour through a typical dinner with her family. Her mother, Anora (Laura Harring) is the true protagonist, a battered housewife who spends her days daydreaming about her husband – that is, if he were a better man. In real life, Cheb (Oded Fehr, best known for his role in the Mummy and Resident Evil series) is an angry, abusive, racist man who treats his wife like scum.

Tabby also has a brother — Little Pete (Christopher Newhouse), who’s a 13-year-old barely closeted gay boy who tries to butch up his image around dad. Little Pete kisses up to “Daddy” all during dinner, while Cheb just berates Anora as she sits blankly, daydreaming.

Without the twee animated sequences (Tabby’s notebook drawings come to life) or the cute and quirky soundtrack, it’d be tough to differentiate the goings-on from a terrible Lifetime “movie of the week” — there’s even a thoroughly un-sexy sex scene between Cheb and Anora (from which the film gets its title). Anora (and by extension, Tabby) lives in a rotten, downtrodden, going-nowhere world.

All of that changes when a perky African-American woman (Imogene, Jill Marie Jones) moves in next door and befriends Anora. Sporting a purple car and a wardrobe that would put RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants to shame, Imogene sells “Kathy Kay” makeup for a living and wears enough of her product to bury a small animal.

She bedazzles Anora with her beauty products and friendship (in fact, she’s actually the first friend that Tabby can recall her mother ever having). They bond over lotion and mud masks and coffee, giggling all the way. It doesn’t take long for the lovely Imogene to start replacing “fantasy Cheb” in Anora’s naughtier daydreams.