Screen Reviews

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Directed by John Cameron Mitchell

Starring John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Michael Pitt, Andréa Martin

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The trailer looked so good, but the film was a complete mess. Little Hansel’s mother flees to East Berlin after breaking up with her pedophile US military husband. The boy grows up as a ’70s pop-infatuated sissy boy, eventually marrying lascivious Sgt. Luther (Maurice Wint). For some obscure reason, Luther wants to marry in East Germany, where they check your equipment before the wedding to avoid any sort of Western decadence. Thus, Hansel must give up a bit of himself to be free. Well, with socialized medicine and general lack of sharp surgical equipment, Hansel ends up as Hedwig (Mitchell), a one-inch war bride drag queen. The happy pair settles in Junction City, Kansas, until one day Luther hikes. Hedwig does the only thing a girly man can do – he starts a band, bringing glam rock to middle America. Sure, it’s so 1971, but maybe Kansas is finally ready for discount androgyny and Ossi angst. Hedwig meets Tommy Gnosis (Pitt), a D&D obsessed born again Christian who Hedwig propels to stardom. Their relation rests on Tommy’s complete disinterest in Hedwig’s front half, and when he makes it big on Hedwig’s songwriting, they part ways – Tommy to a white limo, and Hedwig to a tour of Midwestern seafood restaurants.

Promising as that story line may sound, Hedwig starts out a decent rock parody but rapidly drifts into a mockumentary that might as well be “David Bowie – the Lame Years.” Audience laughter becomes a dim memory as the absurdities of low budget rock & roll morph into Hedwig’s attempts to “find his other half,” which may be the damp Robert Smith-ish Tommy. Sure, they reconcile, and Hedwig’s symbolic split circle tattoo evolves into an arty smiley face, but it’s not like anyone is laughing or crying or paying that much attention to the screen. And most of the songs suck.

There are a few decent noisy songs near the beginning (“Tear Me Down,” “Wig in a Box”), but you can just download them from the Web site with out suffering the bad ones. Andréa Martin does yeoman’s work with the weak lines given her as their road manger, and Emily Hubley’s frequent animation make a good attempt at explaining the motivation, but this is no nascent Rock Parody Classic. Hedwig & Tommy aren’t that appealing as a couple, the music ends up as sensitized singer/songwriter power ballads, and backup singer Yitzhak’s (Shor) vaguely creepy fascination with Hedwig’s wigs is wasted. The outrage a gay drag queen pop star could muster 30 years ago isn’t enough to rescue this film from the cutout bins.


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