Pros: the music, the music, the music [and Mitchell]
Cons: personally, none for me
The Bottom Line: I really do not like this section, I've already used all my words in the review
If you crossed The Who, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Prince, Purple Rain, M. Butterfly and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, what would you have? Wait, Im blasted with an image even I dont want [ darn that visualization I possess ]. No, really, you would have Hedwig and his/her band, The Angry Inch. To save a lot of hassle, I will refer to Hedwig as a female from now on.
In days of old, there were a few rock operas out that gave quite a different interpretation to movie viewing. In lieu of speaking, a good deal of the parts were sung. Not that Hedwig et al could be termed a rock opera for it most definitely has a lot of speaking, but frankly it is all about the music. The music defines the show and the character, all the characters, in this movie. The music tells the story when the spoken word falls silently quiet.
John Cameron Mitchell wrote the screenplay, directed the movie and cast himself in the starring role. Stephen Trask offered his help with the play, wrote the music & lyrics and has a starring part in the movie as well. Generally I tend to shy away from movies that are written, directed & star all one person, they usually just dont make it, but there could be no one else that could define the role of Hedwig other than Mitchell.
Openly out if real life, Mitchell gives an entire new look to drag queen. Actually, without make-up he is really an attractive lady in an odd sort of way. But the make-up was part of the persona of Hedwig and the groupies that followed her. I absolutely fell in love with the Hedheads, which are similar to Wisconsin Cheeseheads.
I refrain from divulging the movie plot but would rather investigate the characters and the music. Hedwig, born a beautiful young boy in East Germany, was originally Hansel. At a young age he learned the value of his face, and yes, his body. Thanks to his mother, he became Hedwig, a unique woman, never quite complete and never quite satisfied. Eventually Hedwig makes her way to the States, brings along her band, The Angry Inch, and starts her appearances in what I would consider places similar to a Rians Restaurant or even a Dennys. Probably more along the lines of a Dennys.
Meanwhile, her former semi-lover, Tommy Gnosis, becomes an overnight success, using the songs he and Hedwig penned together when they were together. While many consider Tommy to be the opposite of Hedwig, I consider them to be one and the same. In fact, the song Origin of Love gives the impression that at one time Hedwig and Tommy were the same person, but split and became two. The symbolic Ying/Yang theory, something that shows up periodically in the movie.
The music is very forceful throughout, often quite hedonistic, but very telling. Each song is a story and when put together becomes THE story of the lives of all involved. I admit, I was surprised no, shocked at the performances in the restaurant. I mean, if I were sitting there eating and someone stood on my table and thrust her pelvis in my face, there better be a Playboy Bunny on the front of the restaurant. Like I said, these were Dennys like restaurants. Not that I would be offended, mind you, just not what I would expect.
When not performing, Mitchell gave a different aura. Still angry, still forceful, but often painful and sometimes playful. Loneliness is one of the major aspects of the movie, starting from their birth and throughout the movie, you watch the two main characters Hedwig & Tommy go through many stages of loneliness and rejection.
I liked the introduction of comedic animation that drops in suddenly and offers a real surprise. It all becomes part and parcel of the story and gave real definition to Origin of Love. The other musical numbers become explosive and dynamic performances full of spirit and a little venting hatred for the way life has evolved. I found Hedwigs costumes often bizarre but never overblown and became really intrigued with her eye make-up and lipstick. How did that lipstick sparkle so?
There are certain songs that just stick with you after you watch a movie. Anytime I hear I Will Survive I see Kevin Kline from In & Out, or You Sexy Thing or You Can Leave Your Hat On, I go right back to The Full Monty. Its just that way. If you dont come away from this movie with at least two songs running through your head, I really dont know what to say to you. Obviously, since Ive mentioned it twice, Origin of Love would be one and the other would be Wig in a Box. That song, in no time, will have you joining in and swaying to the music, even tapping your feet.
Naturally the telling song would be Angry Inch which revels just why Hedwig cannot find love or completion in her relationships. It explains why she lords over the band members, even her current husband, Yitzhak, who harbors dreams of leaving her and becoming a success on his own. In fact, there are several times in the movie you find him lusting after her outlandish wigs, caressing the hair, even trying them on. As the story unfolds and Hedwigs comes to her own realizations, her extended hand to Yitzhak shows how much she has grown.
I would be neglectful to forget the personality of Tommy Gnosis, sometimes willful child and sometimes overbearing Goth rock star. Tommy needs Hedwig as much as she needs him. Essentially they are one and the same person, two halves of a whole. One must succeed for the other to fail, both cannot share the limelight. While Tommy plays to thousands at huge arenas, Hedwig suffers with the little people in the local diner.
Yet, as much as love can define itself, they share love. Stephen Trask supplied the singing voice for Gnosis but it is his own diminutive figure and features that bring him to the front on the screen. Painful and pitiful, you see no happiness reflected in his eyes or his face. His Wicked Little Town probably defines his station in the world and where he will remain.
Offstage the band leads as normal a life as any do in the profession. Girlfriends [and boyfriends] and babies, heartaches, desires, just wanting to succeed. The closing sequence reminded me so much of Purple Rain that I just had to watch that movie again as well.
Hedwig & The Angry Inch was nominated and won way more awards than I care to list here over 20 wins alone. If you are really interested, you can slip over to IMDB and catch them: http://us.imdb.com/Tawards?0248845 impressive.
The soundtrack, soon to reside in my CD case, has 14 original songs by Trask with most vocals by Mitchell.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch certainly would not be a movie that all would enjoy nor understand. It is looking past the visual and listening to the story. It is the harsh realization that, as Hansels mother tells him, To be free one must give up a little part of ones self. That and a botched sex change operation gave Hedwig her angry inch. No wonder she is angry.
Stars John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig, Michael Pitt as Tommy Gnosis and Miriam Shor as Yitzhak. A solid R rating for sexual content and language. No greaties on the DVD extras.
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age