In Soldier’s Girl, 22 year old Private Barry Winchell (Troy Garity) is with the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army, stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Transgendered nightclub performer Calpernia Addams (Lee Pace) works as a showgirl at a drag revue in Nashville, Tennessee when the two met in 1999. Barry’s homophobic roommate Justin Fisher (Shawn Hatosy) brings Barry to the club ‘Visions’ along with some fellow soldiers where she performs. Justin takes Barry along to understand his somewhat subdued nature as a character test. As the male bonding continues, Justin gets drunk and beer is spilt over Barry. Calpernia performing, breaks up the disagreement and take Barry backstage to clean his shirt. Barry and Calpernia connect and he asks for her telephone number and calls her several days later. She invites him to a BBQ at her home and romance blossoms.
Barry is a straight man who doesn’t identify himself as gay as Calpernia, is in herself a woman, even though she has not yet had surgery. When Sergeant Carlos Diaz (Andre Braugher) nominates Barry as the Soldier of the Month, Justin who suffers from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) begins spreading rumours on base about their relationship, which is a violation of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about discussing the sexual orientation of military personnel. Barry faces increasing harassment and pressure, when 17 year old Calvin Glover ((Philip Eddolls) joins the Army, Justin tells him that Barry is gay and needs to be taken care of. After getting Calvin drunk during the Fourth of July weekend, Justin gives Calvin a ‘Louisville Slugger’ vintage baseball bat, and tells him to take care of Barry while he is asleep in bed. While Calpernia performs in a pageant in Nashville, Barry is beaten in his sleep with tragic consequences.
“I am glad they spent a lot of time with the two characters away from their ridiculously gendered workplaces, having good, clean fun at cookouts, in the park, in bed…That is the true triumph of this film: a normalized relationship with the perfect combination of lust and love.”
— Trans Road Map
“It enables three outstanding performances by Garity, Pace and, especially, Hatosy. Perhaps Pierson knew which buttons to push to elicit this trio of performances, or maybe he just got out of the way. But regardless, you’ll rarely see acting this intense, focused or letter-perfect on any screen.”
“It’s a brave, moving film that is destined to move and horrify you.”
— Cinematic Corner
Did You Know
In Soldier’s Girl, the character of Ginger played by female impersonator Tulsi Balram who would go on to become Miss Continental 1998, is based on a cross between Calpernia’s then roommate Chyna (Charles Tubbs) and Regine Phillips who has tried unsuccessfully to win the Miss Continental title. Review our Gay Themed Films here