| July 26, 2020
DIVOS! is a frothy high school comedy that has its heart in the right place. It follows the topsy-turvy path of high school senior and mega-thespian, Ricky (Matt Steele), as he fights to maintain his place on the stage against newcomer golden boy Josh (Timothy Brundidge). The script, written by Steele, follows the basic template of All About Eve and Drop Dead Gorgeous, with some homages and references that would make any theatre queen squeal with delight. However, with painfully broad direction, a mono-rhythmic pace, and only a few sparkling scenes, this comedy is the equivalent of Light in the Piazza; great moments that don’t assemble into an overall positive experience.
Ricky is the established stage queen. A short, tousle-haired muppet of a character who would make Seth Rudetsky look sedate, Ricky all but assumes he has a lock on the lead in the upcoming school musical. Then star baseball player Josh sustains an injury and decides to try the theatre as his extracurricular activity. Imagine Ricky’s dismay when both he and Josh are cast to share the role of the leading man. Not even Ricky’s servile bestie Javier (Luis Avila) can calm him down much less female pal and crew member Heather (Julia Boyd). While the stage is set for a battle, I have to credit Steele’s script for some clever turns of originality. Ricky decides to befriend Josh and be the bigger divo. Better the devil, you know, I suppose. We are here to watch the claws come out and the fur fly, though, and thankfully we are handed that drama, just in different ways.
“Imagine Ricky’s dismay when both he and Josh are cast to share the role…”
Mr. Aubry (Jayson Bernard) and vaping nun Sister Hartt (Marissa Jaret Winokur) do their very best to wrangle the posse of high school stereotypes as rehearsals trudge on. Most of the banter is painfully forgettable and inconsequential. Where the writing truly shines, not to mention the performances, are the scenes with Ricky and his mother Candy (Nicole Sullivan). There is one scene midway through the film that seems to suck the air out of the room when Ricky takes a biting remark a little too far. Other fun moments include Josh’s parents, Mr. (Jake Busey) and Mrs. Kelly (Michelle Way), and their utter confusion at their son’s sudden reverence for the boards.
If I had to offer two strong notes for DIVOS! they would be these: 1) Ryan Patrick Bartley’s direction seems to have one speed and one volume. With a comedy, this isn’t always the best. This results in a handful of scenes that land, while others belly flop. 2) Steele’s screenplay is, for lack of a better term, inflated. Trimming a few moments and asides down really would have kept the pacing from slogging as it does.
Misgivings aside, I have seen far worse than DIVOS! and to be honest, there is a lot to enjoy. Check your standards at the door if you want to enjoy this candy-flossed high school romp.