All Dressed Up and No Place to Go: Docu about Hetero Men in Drag

The novelty of the documentary All Dressed Up and No Place to Go is that its men in drag are neither gay nor transsexual.

New York director Peter Schwartz offers a light, often engrossing look at a quartet of seemingly conventional heterosexual men, who occasionally like to wear women’s clothes. Nonetheless, docu is rather shallow and insufficiently probing to go beyond limited showcasing in such venues as the Nuart or Film Forum, with more promising future in the regional festival circuit and eventually the tube.

“Look around you at any gathering,” says a police chief, “You never know who we are. We could be sitting right next to you.” This feeling pretty much sums up the approach of All Dressed Up, namely, the “strange” duality of human nature, or, more specifically, the inclination of an allegedly increasing number of straight men to experience in public what it’s like dressing and behaving as women.

Challenging some sacrosanct gender and identity theories, docu presents profiles of four very different cross-dressers. A twice-married lawyer, Jeff/Jean initially doubts that he’ll ever find a woman who understands “both sides” of his personality, the more natural masculine and the feminine side “acquired” and acted upon late in life. When he finally tells his two children about his cross-dressing, he gets two unexpected reactions.

In contrast, Dale/Dalie’s second wife not only accepts his habit but also fully embraces it, to the point of getting worried when her computer consultant hubby decides to give it up. That’s part of the real-life mystery (you never know what to expect), and also part of the fun of watching the docu.

According to docu, cross-dressing is becoming a legit subculture in the USA, with growing numbers of practicing men, regular social events, annual conventions, and even a small business of instructional videotapes and books, operated by Joe/Joanne, a former NASA engineer, who’s one of the four interviewees.

Rather disappointingly, All Dressed Up is more about the reaction of significant others to cross-dressing than an in-depth look at the needs that this tendency fulfills, or the various psychological and emotional gratifications that it provides. Lacking both the probing edge and contextual perspective of more solid docus like Paris Is Burning, the film seldom amounts to more than a diverting curiosity item.

Technical credits are extremely modest and running time of 72 minutes could easily be trimmed for a one-hour TV presentation.