As tried and true nerds, we have all experienced being ostracized by our peers for not “fitting in”. However, in the 2018 film Freak Show, from director Trudie Styler and based upon the novel by James St. James, the main character (Billy Bloom) wants nothing more than to stand out.
Bloom (Alex Lawther, The Imitation Game) plays a rambunctious, gender-bending teen who doesn’t like to play by the rules. His fashion and glamour knows no boundaries. But, when he moves in with his estranged father William and starts attending a new, super conservative school, he is instantly segregated by his peers.
Luckily for Bloom, a couple of people are willing to give him a chance. The first is the slightly shy, ever so nerdy “Blah Blah Blah”. So-called because Billy didn’t hear her actual name, but continues their friendship without asking her.
The last is Flip Kelly, star quarterback and resident “nice guy”. From the moment Bloom sees him, he is instantly in love. Although Flip is straight, he doesn’t care that Billy is gay, or that he likes makeup. He feels a connection to Billy because he allows Flip to express his artistic side. The only negative? Flip subtly asks Billy to “tone it down”.
However, Bloom could only go so long without being himself. After thinking about what Oscar Wilde would say, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”, he puts on full garb and proudly walks down the hall and right into a trap set for him.
When Billy arrives at class, he is surrounded by a group of boys wearing masks. They knock him down and repeatedly kicked him in the stomach and face. Eventually, Flip arrives. Having realized their plan, he rescues Bloom and gets him to a hospital. Billy wakes from a coma days later. He thought his mother would come see him, but she doesn’t come.
His mother, Muv (Bette Midler), is an addict and has been making Billy’s father send her child support checks, even though she uses the money to buy drugs and alcohol. When he stops sending checks, she shows up unannounced to collect. Billy doesn’t know that Muv is an addict and thinks she has come to take him home. But, when he overhears a conversation between Muv and William, he learns that she never wanted a child and said she should have “flushed” him.
To top it all off, Billy has to navigate his way around his two biggest bullies. Lynette (Abigail Breslin) is an oober-religious school girl who is constantly insulting him. She is completely self involved, but is one of the most popular girls in school.
Then there is Bernard (Christopher Dylan White), who beat Billy so bad he was in a coma. Later, Bernard tries to forcefully kiss Billy in the bathroom, but begs him not to tell anyone.
Bloom decides he is tired of his family who thinks there is something wrong with him, the bullies who tease and beat him and teachers who turn their back on him. He is going to prove his worth by running for homecoming queen. He announces his candidacy and with the help of “Blah Blah Blah” and his fathers money, he builds an incredible homecoming float.
He doesn’t win the crown, but after an amazing speech about acceptance and letting your “Freak Fag Fly”, he is welcomed by more kids at the school with open arms.
With an incredible cast like Alex Lawther, Abigail Breslin and Laverne Cox, this film really “bloomed” into something incredible. The message is one of acceptance and open mindedness. I back this film 100%!