Set in the ballroom world originally memorialized by the documentary Paris Is Burning, Leave It on the Floor is an original musical set in the scene in 2011. Brad is bullied by his dysfunctional mother; he flees his home and by chance tumbles down the rabbit-hole into the flamboyant LA ball scene where he finds a ragtag new family.
Leave it on the Floor is a wholly mixed up affair with a rich backdrop that should provide an array of vibrant characters and calls to be given some mainstream attention. Being a musical there are plenty of songs on offer; all with fairly slick pop production but varying wildly in quality and pay-off. The high energy numbers are notably more enjoyable than the ballads, the slower tempo songs are too often an awkward distraction. Many of these emotive numbers feel misplaced, looking and sounding odd amid the stripped-back, intimate spaces and interactions the story plays out amid. Considering it’s a sole simple premise there really isn’t enough time given to the ballroom scenes, disappointing when the glimpses of vogue and walk-offs are a feverish display of raw talent that would lend itself to this genre of film spectacularly.
Much like recent efforts Rock of Ages and Magic Mike; in following the hopes and trials of young disenchanted performers, this film also falters most when away from the glitter of the stage. With a patchy script and acting that leaves a lot to be desired. The cast is split pretty evenly between people who seemingly can’t act and a few who possibly could if given capable enough dialogue and characterization. There is some likeable young energy on display but only really given the room to maneuver under a very shallow spotlight. It’s only really the lead, Ephraim Sykes as Brad, who comes through as the one most likely to be seen again with his likeable presence and commanding yet graceful dance skills. Leave it on the Floor is much like the lost youngsters it alludes to, with masses of potential but crushed under the weight of its own unharnessed energy and lack of finesse. Perhaps with some diversely impartial talent behind the camera, several doses of confidence and depth it could’ve ended up a very popular and impactful musical. Here’s hoping some further skilled and astute people see said potential and create something fun, riveting and infectious for the stage, then it may be worth another outing as an adaptation after some well-earned re-writes and Broadway/West End success!
With awareness of the film’s clear budget restraints (respectfully a further a hindrance than in a non-musical) visually, aside from some of the very beautiful cast, the predictable camera work and surprisingly flat costume design show a distinct lack of innovation. This necessary creativity has been achieved with limited resources by the likes of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so while there is no questioning that those involved are trying they do not appear to be trying hard enough, merely expecting audiences to be swept up in the mere mentions of grand drag competitions, displays of camp attitude and a lone Beyonce song they’ve bagged for the soundtrack. Unwisely relying on either a viewer’s wonder of the unknown or familiarity with gay scene traditions.
Musicals sometimes are hard to judge and are no doubt a huge challenge to create, usually prone to pacing issues and huge dips in credibility and common sense, yet thanks to the occasional saving song or dance a musical film can often slide by easier by resting on ”fun”. Leave it on the Floor’s fun moments are too few and too thin, overall making for a weak film. Definitely a shame that an internationally released film representing a diverse LGBT sub-scene had to fall so flat for much of its runtime, but some sparkles of raggedy charm are sort of apparent and will likely grant Leave it on the Floor some sincere (if small) cult status, but also the frustrations of many who eagerly anticipated a contemporary take on a fascinating and kinetic scene.