"I Am Divine": John Waters' Star Gets His Due

If comedy is tragedy plus time, then art is often trash plus time: What was once considered (and usually intended to be) low culture eventually gets framed and respected. Sometimes the honor is even deserved, as in I Am Divine, Steve Yeager's celebratory documentary about the titular, 300-pound transvestite star of John Waters' early films, many a disco floor, and the hearts of countless like-minded outsiders. The picture follows his career from his flawless experiments with drag as a teenager through to his death by heart attack in the late '80s, just as he was finally starting a long-desired acting career in men's clothing. Frankly, Divine would deserve a place in cinema history just for playing Jackie in the first known re-creation of the Kennedy assassination in Waters' 1965 Eat Your Makeup, which elicited the expected, outraged cries of "Too soon!" at the time, and is in many ways more hilariously shocking than the more famous dogshit-eating scene in 1972's Pink Flamingos. Waters and other friends and collaborators are interviewed, and Tab Hunter's recollections of co-starring with Divine are genuinely heartfelt and touching. Note to the squeamish: No coprophagy is shown onscreen in I Am Divine, but you should still grow a backbone and see Pink Flamingos. Divine did it all for you.

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