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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Starring: John Cameron Mitchell, Andrea Martin
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genres: Comedy, Gay/Lesbian, Music

*Also starring: Miriam Shor, Sook-Yin Lee, Ben Mayer-Goodman, Alberta Watson, Michael Pitt, Stephen Trask

Review by MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

Never mind the fact that she's an East German transsexual whose botched sex-change operation left her with the titular "angry inch"--the character of struggling glam rocker Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell) is an absolutely refreshing screen creation simply due to her appealingly real personality: a mix of exuberance, self-effacing humor, and unabashed romanticism. In a similar vein, _Hedwig_and_the_Angry_Inch_ is an absolute breath of fresh air, due to the very authentic talents of Mitchell. As writer, director, and star of this adaptation of his popular Off-Broadway musical, he pulls off a stunning cinematic hat trick that's all too rare for a first-time filmmaker. Not to be discounted is the invaluable contribution of Stephen Trask, who composed all of the film's memorable, toe-tapping tunes (I dare anyone to not sing along to the central production number "Wig in a Box") and has a supporting role as well.

Being based on what is essentially a one-man show on the stage, _Hedwig_ the film cannot completely overcome one key shortcoming (no pun intended): the flatness of all characters surrounding Hedwig. She is the only character developed to any substantial degree, a problem when it comes time to addressing secondary but no less key issues such as her current husband Yitzhak's (Miriam Shor, in an inspired bit of opposite gender-bending) relationship-threatening desire to don wigs and dresses. The sketchy development of supporting players also affects one of the film's main concerns, Hedwig's relationship with ex-lover Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt), who went on to rock stardom with the songs she wrote; one never quite gets why she is so hung up on such a shallow young twit, and Pitt's vacant performance (Trask provides Tommy's incongruously passionate singing voice) fails to fill in any gaps.

But _Hedwig_ is ultimately about her ongoing pursuit of love and fulfillment, and that journey is intensely involving. Through Mitchell's vibrant performance and smart directing choices (the use of abstract animation interludes is especially novel), not to mention Trask's indelible melodies, one gets to know the character so intimately that her unusual life circumstances are a non-issue. Hedwig comes to life as a living, breathing, warts-and-all person who wants nothing more than to be happy and whole, and Mitchell's emotional and entertaining execution of this universal story resonates long after you've left the theatre... and made your way to the record store to buy the soundtrack.

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