Hedwig & The Angry Inch (2001)
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Review Date: August 21, 2001
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Writer: John Cameron Mitchell
Producers: Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel, Christine Vachon
John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig
Michael Pitt as Tommy Gnosis
Miriam Shor as Yitzhak
A little boy born in East Germany (named Hansel) loves the American music. One day, he gets the opportunity to meet and marry an American G.I., but first, he must get a sex change (enter Hedwig). Once married, the two move to the States, but quickly thereafter, get a divorce. At that point, Hedwig starts writing music and meets another confused boy, who soon turns into a star. That boy also turns his back on Hedwig, and it isn't long before Hedwig puts together his/her own band and tours the States via seafood restaurants. This is the story of his/her life, told via flashbacks and musical numbers.
An artsy-fartsy musical with great songs and a superb performance by John Cameron Mitchell, doesn't really come together as a whole, with over-the-top symbolism, incoherence and too much pretension to retain my interest all the whole way through. In fact, this isn't so much of a realistic, articulate, behind-the-scenes look at the rise of a rock 'n roll star, as it is an ambiguous, overly poetic and incomprehensible struggle of a man, his sexuality and his identity as a whole person on this planet. I guess that I was expecting the former going in. The film is somewhat interesting to a point, but I was personally never able to involve myself too much, as the basic symbolic and incongruent nature of the film left me feeling cold and distant. But it is definitely tuned to a certain type of audience. Chances are that if you are a fan of THE WALL, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW or even PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, the elements tangled in this movie will likely strike your fancy (some of the characters in this film even ask the audience to sing along at some point, and provide the lyrics of their song, on-screen).

Well, I personally don't care for those films, and didn't really get into the whole "show" atmosphere of this movie either. I guess I might've looked at it all too literally, but like I said earlier, I just didn't care enough about the characters to delve into the "so the butterfly represents his freedom?" side of things. All I know is that the film left me with many questions unanswered and didn't make me feel any more fulfilled. What was Hedwig's relationship with that other member of his band (with the beard)? What happened with Hedwig and Tommy Gnosis at the end of the movie? (was that an actual sequence or a fantasy?) What ever happened to the lawsuit? And more... All of which were part of the film and interested me somewhat. If the only idea behind the film was for the main character to uncover his/her sexuality, then that's one thing, but as many of the relationships and situations presented themselves in this movie, I wanted some resolution to those pieces as well. I didn't get it.

The film's humor also didn't tickle my funny bone either. Then again, I've seen many a film in these art-house theatres in which patrons are rolling down the aisles with laughter, while all I see is a tiny bit of whimsy on the screen. Some of these films are also better enjoyed with the added "atmosphere" of a plant called marijuana, and I can certainly see how this movie ingrains within itself some nifty visual elements, in order to jazz up that experience. But being sober as I was and expecting a coherent, funny, musical with a transsexual twist, I didn't leave the theater very satisfied. I came out having watched an existential story of a confused man caught up in a musical lifestyle, wrapped in metaphors, dramatics and more questions than answers. I will, on the other hand, definitely hand some props out to the lead in this film, John Cameron Mitchell, who is also the man who wrote, directed and created the play on which this movie is based, and the tunes, which will likely be enjoyed by anyone who digs The Sex Pistols, David Bowie and the whole 70s glam-rock scene.

Note: BTW, it seems as though pretty much every single "mainstream" critic in the United States loved this movie from top to bottom (and thought that it was really funny to boot!), so you might want to take that into consideration yourself. But having said that, the main reason that I started this dinky website in the first place was because films like this would sometimes be uniformly applauded by the "official" critics, while I, a regular "JoBlo" in the audience, just wouldn't get what all the fuss was about. This movie is a perfect example of why I continue to write movie reviews.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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