It is a teen-leaning drama, though at times it feels that it is aiming at a much younger audience. It follows a runaway drag queen and a stowaway child on a road trip across America, and it is a thrilling combination, shot with such dedication to soft focus and complimentary lighting you’d forgiven for attempting to wipe the screen. RuPaul is Ruby Red, a tough, old-time New York club queen who has saved up $100,000 – Drag Race viewers may find it challenging to watch RuPaul saying “$100,000” with a straight face – to give up the night job and set up his drag club. But his David Gandy-Esque boyfriend, so model-handsome that he must be evil has other ideas and makes away with the cash, leaving Ruby Red to try to scrape some of it back on a last-minute drag tour of smalltown of USA.
There is a tacky Kill Bill twist to the criminal subplot and the inspired casting of Wayne’s World’s Tia Carrere as a villain plastic surgeon and master villain. But the main event is an honest attempt not so much to pull on your heartstrings as tear them into submission. Ruby Red’s neighbor is a 10-year-old girl named AJ, an unbearably cute slutter brat who dresses like off-duty Cara Delevingne and is left to protect herself on the mean streets of New York because her inattentive mother is an addict and sex worker. Eventually, after some bratty minor robberies and a couple of tantrums (“You’re like a Chucky doll, but not as nice”), AJ ends up accompanying Ruby Red from New York to Texas in a battered old camper van. Along the way, they teach each other valuable life lessons about love and self-acceptance.
It sits between two worlds, sometimes uneasily, and it is unclear to whom it is aiming. Is it for kids, for teenagers, or for adults who never knew what they needed from TV was to see RuPaul riding a donkey? Fans of RuPaul’s considerable television empire will have fun spotting Drag Race alumni, 22 of whom appear dotted around the various cities Ruby Red and AJ visit. There is plenty of fodder for lovers of erotic humor, too, particularly from Michael Leon Woolley as Ruby Red’s flatmate and best friend, Louis. When Ruby Red embraces the love of listening to Oprah, who taught him to dream, Louis snaps back: “But I taught you how to put a condom on in the dark. Now which one’s more important?”