Reviews

Hedwig And The Angry Inch

4

Not all drag queens head Somewhere Over The Rainbow with Judy Garland or take the disco diva route, promising I Will Survive. Take Wayne (later to become Jayne) County, for example, who with The Electric Chairs released the infamous 1977 punk single (If You Don't Want To Fuck Me Baby) Fuck Off.

There's more than a touch of Wayne/Jayne in writer-director John Cameron Mitchell's blonde-wigged alter-ego Hedwig Robinson but, despite the score's punkier moments, that's not the film's true musical focus. Instead Mitchell, starring in and directing the screen adaptation of the hit off-Broadway show he co-wrote with Stephen Trask, favours the sounds and imagery of glam rock.

As it was in Velvet Goldmine, it's the gender-bending experimentation of this era that matters just as much as the guitar licks. Hedwig's rock 'n' roll holy trinity are Lou Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop - - particularly the androgynous figures the trio cut during their Berlin residencies in the early to mid-1970s.

And it's in Berlin that the story of Hedwig And The Angry Inch begins. It's soon clear that young Hansel would rather be a Gretel, so he's suffering an internal divide that's as imposing as the recently erected Berlin Wall. This theme of feeling like half a person is woven through the film: when Hansel becomes Hedwig and searches for a partner to make her whole, in the animated sequences that give the stage play a more cinematic spin and in Hedwig's desire to be recognised for the best-selling songs her former boyfriend ripped off.

Mitchell portrays the alienated Hedwig as a tough and funny survivor, someone we root for rather than pity. The director and star is helped by a terrific script, complete with lyrics that are often as smart as they are poignant ("Six inches forward, five inches back - I've got an angry inch," sings Hedwig about her botched operation).

The end is a little confusing, but it doesn't detract from the against-the-odds, uplifting entertainment of it all. This show, like tear-stained mascara, will run and run.

Verdict:

With more wigs than the wardrobes of Bruce Willis and Burt Reynolds combined, this stage-to-screen adaptation mixes stand-up monologues with show-stopping music. But no camp posturing here: Hedwig spills over with attitude... and she rocks.

Film Details

  • 15
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: August 24th 2001

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