Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Starring:
  • A Trailer Park in Junction City, Kansas
  • The Best Pure Rock Score in Recent Memory
  • Heartfelt and Poignant Animation

 

Directed by John Cameron Mitchell "Have you seen my daughter Melissa? We do that crappy pre-Oscars show? Can we talk?!?!"

Rock Poetry Worthy of Pete Townshend

It's safe to say that there are some sexually dysfunctional folks quartered in Midwestern trailer parks. Not that I can offer primary evidence, mind you, but Hedwig does live for a while in a single-wide in Junction City, Kansas. And were it not for several dozen wheat fields, he'd be next door neighbors to Teena Brandon, which seems about right. But where Teena was a quiet, white-trash Romeo stealing hearts against all odds, Hedwig is a boisterous punk rocker whose issues are displayed with considerable plumage. You see, Hedwig's sex change operation was botched, so he's stuck with "six inches forward, five inches back." "The Angry Inch" is the result of this, and it's also the name of his band, a loud therapy troupe of codependent enablers, hanging on to Hedwig's promises of glory.

Actually, this promise is not too far-fetched. Hedwig's songs have been stolen by a formerly shy ex-boyfriend whom he educated in the ways of music and lyrics, among other things. So Hedwig and his Angry Inch tag along behind Tommy Gnosis' monster tour, slashing out punk rock from behind the buffets of stadium-area restaurants. Hedwig also has a quiet, blue-eyed admirer in his band, whom I can't identify, but whose performance broke my heart. The longing in his eyes is the most accurate measure of why people stay in bad relationships as I've seen in recent movies.

It's been nearly a month since I've seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which should probably explain why I've had trouble churning out a review of it, so I can't give it the attention its artistry deserves. I will say that John Cameron Mitchell's performance as Hedwig is layered and touching—think Phillip Seymore Hoffman's performance in Flawless with the performance responsibility of Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!. The rock song score is the best I've heard in a long time, certainly since the days of Eddie and the Cruisers or even Quadrophenia. And in a brilliant calculation, we don't observe Hedwig performing each song in its entirety; we do hear each full song, but he's visually accompanied by abstract animation. There's an especially touching sequence with the Greek idea of doubly-limbed bodies dividing, then searching for their missing half. Not just in the animation, but John Cameron Mitchell's visuals often approach sublime poetry. For instance, Hedwig pauses to recount he weary life story while sitting on a pile of old, tread-worn tires. Hedwig and the Angry Inch should make several critics' top-ten lists, but probably won't because of its subject material. Don't be put off by the transsexual theme; Mitchell's story is about love, pain, and longing in its purest forms. And it takes a potshot at Phil Collins. What more do you want? 

The Pitch:
2 Quadrophenia
Plus
2 David Bowie
Equals
4 Hedwig and the Angry Inch
See It For:
Elton John revealing his outfit for the Michael Jackson WTC relief benefit video.