I Am Divine, film review: Outrageous drag queen is portrayed as sweet-natured man

(15) Jeffrey Schwarz, 90 mins
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The Independent Culture

"I always used to say to Glen, 'don't do anything to embarrass us,'"recalls the mother of Harris Glenn Milstead (also known as Divine) early in this enjoyably upbeat documentary.

Given that Divine was an outrageous drag queen who ate dog shit on screen in John Waters' Pink Flamingos, it's little wonder his mom felt let down. The film traces his unlikely emergence as a star.

Waters talks about tapping the anger that Divine felt about his troubled Baltimore childhood. There are references to the performer's weight problems and depression about being treated as a freak in Hollywood rather than the character actor he yearned to become.

Not that there's very much darkness here. The director Jeffrey Schwarz fills the film with archive footage in which the performer, who died aged only 42, is invariably seen with a broad grin on his face. The interviewees and even his mother, with whom he was reconciled late in his life, all portray him as a generous and very sweet-natured man.