Once in a great while we come across an actor who is so genuine, quick witted and who posesses an incomparable sense of comedic timing that instinctually we know that we may be witnessing the stuff in which legends are build. Leslie Jordan is such an actor. Jordan wrote the screenplay, based on his play and is also the main character in this fascinating film about a gay man coming to terms with his sexuality and his Southern Baptist upbringing. After escaping to the bigger city, his character is drawn into a world of drugs and hustling in 1970s Atlanta.
The film opens with Jordan meeting his maker after a drug overdose and then revisiting his life 20 years prior when he leaves home for Atlanta. There he meets party girl and drug connoisseur "Miss Make-Do" (Erin Chandler) who introduces him to the crazy world of chemicals and the Pershing Point Hotel.
Leslie Jordan proves himself a solid and original dramatist with a heavy influence of John Waters, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Armistad Maupin. For quite a while his script seems like a silly, funny and sweet reminiscences on early drug culture very similar in tone (not subject matter) as in his previous film Sordid Lives, but the film changes its focus and becomes more serious in it's middle section. It is here where his script looks for deeper meanings and it is not afraid to explore the dark side. And into the darkness we delve in but always with an overall unique sense of humanity as when the main protagonist utters " I do not believe that we are human beings in search of a spiritual experience. I believe we are spiritual beings in search of a human experience.”
In a very similar way that Pedro Almodovar uses sleaze, sweetness, drama, comedy and colorful aesthetics, the director Julia Jay Pierpoint III emphasizes the theatricality of the story by filling the screen with eye-popping colors, outrageous characters and flamboyant costumes. We are introduced to many secondary characters such as the Countessa, a wheelchair-bound drag queen going to beauty school, the hotel clerk with his dog in a tiara that supposedly comes from royalty and most important the pimp/hustler with a good heart that will play a major part on our protagonist life.
Mark Pelligrino as the hustler emerges as a love interest and protector for Jordan's protagonist. And the film suddenly becomes darker, meaningful, and tragic. Their mostly platonic relationship is so real and brilliantly played by both that even within the confines of the superficial aesthetics of the storyline they transcend, resulting into a film that has much greater meaning that we initially expected.
The film suffers a bit from its shoestring budget, particularly in the high society party scenes with Miss Make Do, but there is so much more to like in this film that is all forgiven. All the performances are excellent particularly Leslie Jordan as our main protagonist, Erin Chandler, as Miss Make Do the fabulous fag hag, and Mark Pellegrino, as a the hustler, all terrific and memorable.
Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel is not for everyone. It plunges into some very dark alleys at times that may not be suitable for all tastes, but if you have an open mind, appreciate legendary performances and don’t mind being twisted and turned before enlightenment this film may be the right thing for you. Otherwise…you've been warned.