HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, starring John Cameron Mitchell, who also writes and
directs, is a musical comedy/drama about a transvestite singer. With a big
blonde wig and eight coats of make-up, Hedwig Schmidt (Mitchell) is initially
funny. But with it's thin narrative, based on Mitchell's off Broadway play, the
story doesn't have much to offer save its one, recurring visual joke of Hedwig
belting out songs in nondescript salad bars and coffee shops, whose patrons
don't know what to make of Hedwig and his band. Few are impressed, and most
just stare, which was about my reaction to the movie. To be fair, comedy is a
very personal medium, and the stranger on my left laughed constantly.
In flashbacks, we learn that Hedwig, then known as Hansel, was born in Germany
at the time of the building of the Berlin Wall. The product of an East German
mother and a GI father, he had a trying childhood. The movie's best scene
occurs when the 6-year-old Hansel (Ben Mayer-Goodman) is shown jumping up and
down on his bed, acting like a rock star as he listens to the American Forces
Network on the radio. When Hansel gets older, he kind of changes sex and
marries a GI just like mom did.
Another subplot concerns Hedwig's troubled romance with a big rock star, Tommy
Gnosis (Michael Pitt). Throughout the film, they cut back to crudely drawn
animations in order to illustrate various points. These drawings left me as
cold as the rest of the movie. Perhaps if I had liked the music, which I
didn't, I could have enjoyed the film. As it is, all I can say is that Mitchell
does throw his heart and soul into the production. I just wish that the result
had more to offer than a promising beginning.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH runs 1:35. It is rated R for sexual content and
language and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, August 3, 2001. In
the Silicon Valley it will be playing at the Camera Cinemas. The movie was
shown recently at the Camera Cinema Club (http://www.cameracinemas.com/club) of
Los Gatos and San Jose.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes