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‘Port Authority’ review: Scorsese produced queer romance in the New York kiki scene

A touching love story.

Port Authority does not bring much new to the dance with its narrative structure. Paul (Fionn Whitehead) is literally fresh off the bus from Pittsburgh. He immediately falls for a ballroom dancer named Wye (Lenya Bloom). The two begin a relationship filled with secrets. Set amongst the kiki scene of New York City, the setting is reminiscent of the drag balls made famous in the groundbreaking Paris is Burning.

The world has changed since the revelation of a man dating a trans person was a source of controversy, comedy, and/or revulsion. Port Authority never tries to hide the fact that who Wye is – though it will be a surprise to some. This is not a story that is attempting to build up to a shocking gender reveal. The suspense is not even in how Paul will react. The hook here is in his character arc.

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Once Paul learns the truth about Wye, he must reexamine what he thought he knew about the world. It is in these moments that writer-director Danielle Lessovitz’s story has a chance to shine. Port Authority is not another film about a queer person trying to get society to accept them. It is about letting go of “white boy realness” and coming to terms with the real world.

Despite some rough patches in the storytelling, Port Authority works for the most part. Arguably, the most important part of the film is the relationship between Paul and Wye. The chemistry between the two makes the uneven plot much more palatable. Wye is dynamic in what is almost a mentor role. Not only is she navigating a new relationship, she is assisting to enlighten Paul.

There is a naivety and acceptance from Paul that makes the film different than others that have dealt with similar topics. It does cater to some tropes (Paul must hide his feelings for Wye from a homophobic friend), but Port Authority is always trying to tell a different type of tale. It is more about honesty and moving forward. The movie looks at the big picture through an intimate lens.

Port Authority comes to theaters May 28 and will be available on digital and on demand June 1

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