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  Hedwig and the Angry Inch  
  Killer Films  
  John Cameron Mitchell  
  John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask, Miriam Shor, Andrea Martin  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  The Priestess  

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 musical.

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 Cameron Mitchell.

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