If you are a hard-core Rocky Horror fan, you
owe it to yourself to see Hedwig. I know, I didn't believe it
either until I saw it for myself upon a friend's near insistence.
I mean, what film could possibly claim to be The Rocky
Horror Picture Show of our generation? Wasn't Rocky
Horror pretty much definitive? Apparently not. Hedwig
and the Angry Inch takes the gender-bending premises
of Rocky Horror and runs wild with them. The end
result is a film that blows the term gender right the
hell out of the water! If you are like me and believe with all
your heart that sex is not all about genitalia, you simply must
see this film. If you have ever for even a fleeting moment wondered
whether your "other half" is a boy or a girl, you must see this
film. And if by some sad misfortune, you are convinced of your
heterosexuality, then you absolutely must see this film! The
fact of the matter is, folks, that you don't have to be just
gay or straight. There are many of us who lie somewhere in between.
And I've got even bigger news for some of you: There are not
only two genders! In fact, there are a good number of people
somewhere in between the two. Hansel Schmidt is one of them.
Hedwig is his/her story.
So, now that I've let the cat out of the bag on one of the
main themes of the film, let me share another: it's a love story.
In fact, Hedwig is probably the best love story
since Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece (a
must-read children's book). Why? Because it's about triumph
over mythology. It's about maturing to the level where you don't
count on someone else to make you whole. It's about true love:
the love of self! It's about that brilliant Carole King lyric:
"They'll hurt you. They'll desert you. They'll take your soul
if you let them, but don't you let them." Hansel/Hedwig loves
wholly, madly, unconditionally. And like the majority of us
who have loved that way, he/she gets royally screwed over! If
you've ever had someone you love with all your heart take everything
you had to give and run away, you will truly empathize with
Hedwig, the "internationally ignored songstress."
Despite its heavy themes, Hedwig is probably
the best comedy I've seen in years. In fact, seeing it makes
me want to knock But I'm
a Cheerleader down a notch. It's not that Cheerleader
isn't as good as I promised; it's just that this film blows
it away and makes me hate the limitations of numbered sponges.
[Let's not start THAT whole debate
up again. There are 7 sponges -- just live with it! -- Brendan]
The writing is incredible! There is a plethora of really good
quips about rock musicians, pop culture, history… and there
is even a joke in Hebrew! Plus, Hedwig makes a
few well-deserved jabs at Rent. After all, Hedwig,
like Rocky Horror, started out as an off-Broadway
Speaking of music, the soundtrack is worth a serious listen,
far more memorable than Rent was falsely hyped
to be. Hedwig borrows from all of the classics.
The music ranges broadly from cheesy rock ballads reminiscent
of Meatloaf to edgy rock along the lines of The Velvet Underground
to punk like The Damned. The film itself will remind you of
Rocky Horror by virtue of its campiness, but it
also is evocative of The Wall in its animated
sequences. And there's a little Tommy, Performance,
and Phantom of the Paradise thrown in for good
measure. Writer, director, and lead actor John Cameron Mitchell
(Hansel/Hedwig) is obviously a progeny of this school of theatre.
In fact, he won Best Director at Sundance and Best Actor at
the Seattle International Film Festival.
Mitchell has received numerous other nominations and awards
for Hedwig, but he is certainly not the only cast
member worth mention. Hedwig's co-creator is Stephen
Trask, who plays Skszp, the leader of The Angry Inch, Hedwig's
back-up band. He doesn't have many lines in the film, but he
wrote all the music and lyrics. You may have heard of his band,
Cheater, or remember him from New York City's Squeezebox house
band or his performances with the likes of Greenday, Debbie
Harry, Joey Ramone, and Lene Lovich. He won an Obie and numerous
other awards for the Hedwig soundtrack. You may
also recognize Hedwig's love interest, Tommy Gnosis, played
by Michael Pitt. He was in Finding Forrester and
is currently in theatres in Murder by Numbers.
Another noteworthy performance was that of Miriam Shor, who
most recently played on the ill-fated TV program Inside
Schwartz. Shor convincingly plays Yitzhak, a character
she originally played on the stage. The first time I watched
the film, I thought Yitzhak was a hot man, but now, I don't
know what to think. (And you know what? It doesn't matter what
I think anyway!) Andrea Martin also gives a great performance
as Hedwig's manager, Phyllis Stein. (Get it?) You may remember
her from as far back as SCTV, but she's been on
many programs since then and has her own stand-up act.
Overall, Hedwig is a total surprise. It is brilliant
on so many levels: visually, musically, poetically. It will
make you wish you were half as creative and talented as John