Leave It on the Floor is a spanking, hot, independent feature film musical with eleven original songs set in the contemporary ball culture of Los Angeles. The film is the twenty year passion project of award-winning director Sheldon Larry, with an exceptional screenplay and lyrics by Glenn Gaylord, an original score by Beyonce’s creative director Kim Burse, and heart-thumping choreography by Frank Gatson Jr. the wizard behind Beyonce’s image and music videos (including the “Single Ladies” phenomenon and J.Lo’s current hit ”On the Floor”). The film was shot in Los Angeles this past summer with eye-popping visuals, extraordinary music, and breakout performances by a cast of unknowns who act and sing and dance. In addition, it features a song by Beyonce, and a surprise performance by the amazing artist Ledisi.
For a guy who runs the other way when a musical is mentioned, I think I may have been converted, as I could not find a thing I did not like about this great effort. The more upbeat songs are generally stronger than the slower ones. Princess Eminence (a divinely bitchy Phillip Evelyn, who also gives a heartfelt performance) gets to sing the toe- tapping “Justin’s Gonna Call,” explaining to Bradley that greener pastures await. And “Knock Them Mothafuckers Down” is a driving bowling-alley number about kicking ass and taking names that makes a catchy companion piece to the film’s self-titled theme. While the movie doesn’t quite properly weave Caldwell Jones (Demarkes Dogan as Queef Latina’s lover) into the story, his rap duet with Carter, “This Is My Lament,” achieves an odd beauty. “I’m Willing” and “Don’t Jump Baby” didn’t ring any tears, but “His Name Is Shawn,” about the perception of and fight for identity of transgender and queer youth between the biological families who have ostracized them and the chosen families who have opened their arms to them is astonishing, appropriately awkward and strangely moving. The soundtrack also creates a really cool mash-up between “Ballroom Bliss” and Bradley’s self-pitying “Loser’s List.”
To an outsider, at first, the Los Angeles ball culture may appear narcissistic and superficial. People prance down their runways, gesticulating and shooting irreverent poses, while being cheered on and/or booed in the process, all of which this attitude spreads into their respective homes. Yet, we eventually bear witness to talented dancers and contortionists, as well as the time and creativity which the artists invest into their costumes and makeup, but, ultimately, most importantly, the resilient fabric stitching these untraditional families together.
Floor is both a celebration of a marginalized culture which has been around for ages and developed out of a Darwinian instinct to exist and thrive, but its songs and sass beg for audience participation.