Recently, a video began making the rounds on Twitter, showing an excited audience at a movie theater celebrating and living the so-called “theater experience.” By the sound of the cheer, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the movie in question was the latest MCU effort. But, as it turns out, perhaps as a strange surprise to many, the film that elicited such an intense reaction was Kenneth Branagh’s long-gestating Death on the Nile.
The crowd also rallied for one particular reason: Gal Gadot’s delivery of the line “enough champagne to fill the Nile.” Now, it’s true this peculiar dialogue has a certain ridiculousness to it that makes it funny in and of itself, but we’re talking about a reaction comparable to Captain America lifting Mjolnir. The crowd celebrated the line’s absurdity, yes, but they applauded just as much for Gal Gadot’s theatrical delivery.
Gal Gadot is an intriguing celebrity. A divisive figure in social media, Gadot attracts controversy without being overly confrontational. Fans may take issue with her personal life or political statements, but her professional career is also a target. When used properly, Gadot is a serviceable actress, but she lacks the gravitas and versatility of, say, a Saoirse Ronan or a Margot Robbie; however, she has something that makes her appealing beyond her obvious beauty, a je-ne-sais-quois that fills the screen without ever commanding it. Still, until last year and due to a series of misguided choices (including the infamous “Imagine” video at the start of the pandemic) Gadot seemed like one of those celebrities that fans loved to hate.
And then Death on the Nile happened.
The film is far from the best Agatha Christie adaptation, but it’s not an entire trainwreck. Gadot herself has limited screen time, as anyone who’s read the nearly one-hundred-year-old novel knows. However, like Gadot’s Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, Branagh utilizes the actress cleverly, enveloping her in beautiful gowns and requesting the bare minimum of her, acting-wise. Yet, in asking so little of her, Branagh brings out a side of Gadot that audiences hadn’t quite recognized yet: an undeniable sensibility for Camp.
Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp presents an easy-to-understand definition of the term: “Camp is a love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they’re-not.” Sontag further claims that “Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” Not Gal Gadot, but “Gal Gadot.”
In many ways, Death on the Nile is the perfect vehicle for Gadot to explore her Camp sensibilities. The actress plays Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle, the victim at the center of the whodunit, a paranoid bride who mistrusts everyone around her. Yet it’s hard to care about her predicament when the theatricality of her behavior renders everything superfluous. In Sontag’s words, Camp “converts the serious into the frivolous,” which is a perfect way to describe Gadot’s take on the doomed Linnet.
Now, despite what some might think, there’s nothing wrong with a Camp performance. However, it’s also true that the word Camp still carries a negative connotation, especially when talking about acting. Some of cinema’s greatest Camp classics, the Mommie Dearests and Showgirls of the world, remain seen as lesser, worse, cheap attempts at making a “real” picture. However, Camp is a legitimate style and should be discussed as such. And in terms of Camp, Gal Gadot gives a tour-de-force in Death on the Nile.
Gadot’s Camp sensibilities were always there, even if they didn’t seem so blatant at the time. Think of her delivery of the line “A baby!” in the first Wonder Woman, as her fish-out-of-water Themysciran Princess stumbles upon an infant; think of her strangely comical whisper-like “Do you and Jeff have a thing?” as she tries to intimidate Isla Fisher’s Karen in 2016’s Keeping Up with the Joneses; and who can forget her overly-patient “I need you to give me the stone,” as she holds for dear life to the windshield of a moving vehicle in Wonder Woman 1984? Camp has always been present in Gal Gadot; the audience is just catching up.
Can we imagine a world in which Gadot doesn’t reject, but actually leans into, her Camp persona? One can only imagine what a third Wonder Woman movie would look like if Gadot embraced Camp. Arguably, WW1984 would be a much better movie had it gone all-in on the inherent Camp of the 80s (Pedro Pascal, the undisputed best part of the movie, did and came out victorious).
Could Gadot do it, then? Could the actress appreciate the opportunity life and the gay community are giving her and become the modern-day queen of Camp? She certainly wouldn’t be the first to try. Following her stellar turn in the otherwise disappointing Ocean’s 8, Anne Hathaway tried to earn the title for herself with films like The Hustle and The Witches. However, the material needs to be good for Camp to be Camp and not trash, and unfortunately, Hathaway was let down by her scripts.
But Gal Gadot… Can we see a future in which she collects fat checks to yell “enough champagne to fill the Nile” into a theater full of screaming gays? Dare we imagine a third Wonder Woman where she leans into the natural excess that comes with being a spandex-wearing Amazon that uses her lasso of truth to punish robbers and baddies? Probably not.
However, not all is lost, and Gadot has the perfect vehicle to explore the true power of her Camp sensibilities. Not Cleopatra (because God knows Paramount, bless their soul, will try to make that into an Oscar contender). Instead, it’s Disney’s upcoming Snow White remake, in which Gadot will play the Evil Queen, that will be the perfect showcase for Queen of Camp Gal Gadot. If there was ever a project in which Gal Gadot could let her Camp flag fly, it’s the one where she will literally turn into a cackling old witch.
Fans already shudder in anticipation at the idea of a Camp-powered Gadot delivering the line “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” You have the chance of a lifetime, Gal; use it well, and soon you’ll have enough screaming gays to feel denial.