The End of Wonderland
(Canada – Quebec, 85 mins)
Dir. Laurence Turcotte-Fraser
Prepare your eyeballs for a whimsical, raw trip down the rabbit hole in The End of Wonderland. Unlike Alice’s cartoon, this doc is definitely not rated PG. It’s a window into one trans woman’s world of sex work and fantasy art that brushes up against the hoarded world she grew up in.
Tara Emory is a self-professed ‘micro-celebrity’ with a penchant for the weird, living in unglamourous rural Massachusetts. Wonderland is her artistic studio where she’s working on a space-age porno complete with ejaculating robots. She walks viewers through the process with diet 7-UP and Mentos.
Laurence Turcott-Fraser’s debut feature is a profile of Emory in a transitional period of her life. On the edge of fame but not close enough to buy her way into security, Emory faces eviction at wonderland. Even though her massive studio space is dilapidated and crammed to the brim with sewing supplies, props, and sex toys, the owner has decided to put it on the market.
The End of Wonderland follows Emory as she grapples with the gap between where she is and where she thought she would be at this point in her life. While her parents played life safe, she says she tried to make it in porn because it made lots of money. Sadly, her earnings don’t seem to be enough to keep her most cherished creative space. In the process of reluctantly sorting through and hauling out her many belongings, she sorts through segments of herself.
A big part of Emory’s identity comes from growing up in a crammed household. Her father’s collection of VW Beetles on their front lawn becomes a motif, something she returns to often when explaining herself, from youth to now. When her father died, she mentions, she was left to clean up and clear out the graveyard of car parts.
Like her dad, Emory has an array of cars and parts, kept in the belly of wonderland. She wonders aloud if she inherited some sort of “sickness” from him. Her mother is still alive, but still refers to her daughter as “he,” which Emory brushes off. The irony stings when Emory’s mother scolds her for using the word ‘hoarding’ in reference to her upbringing.
The doc is a worthwhile attempt at unpacking Emory’s physical and emotional baggage, but it could have been more satisfying had it gone deeper. While Emory’s intricately-crafted DIY saga of robotic sex adventures in space is entertaining, it burnt out a lot of the runtime. The sweet spot of the film found Emory tracing the lines between the facets of her identity and family history.
Still, The End of Wonderland is an enlightening portrait of a colourful trans woman and her sexual subculture. While she may be losing her creative base and continues to wrestle with the past, her optimistic attitude and gaggle of adoring friends and fans are bound to see her through.
The End of Wonderland screens at RIDM 2021.