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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 10.57%
Average: 1.63%
Pretty Bad: 3.25%
Total Crap: 2.44%

5 reviews, 93 user ratings

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Put on some make-up, turn on the 8-track and have a ball! Beautiful fun"
4 stars

How can you know if/when you’ve truly found your other half? And if that person leaves you, does that make him/her not your other half anymore? Perhaps your so-called “other half” merely serves to bring out the inner you that has been pent up inside for so long, you never knew it existed.

So goes the story of Hedwig, a glam-punk-semi-transsexual rock star trying to confront his long-lost love named Tommy Gnosis who ran off with his heart and his songs. Tommy’s face has all but taken over the covers of every magazine in the nation while Hedwig squanders with his band playing to disinterested patrons of seafood restaurants. Hedwig doesn’t want revenge or fame. He merely wants to win his life back and to know if these songs about wholeness still have meaning to Tommy. Words and music brought these two halves together, but who knows if they truly fit?

If all this sounds too weirdly melodramatic, let me just tell you that “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” has just the energy, fire, wisdom and charm this murky and sluggish film season so desperately needs. Unlike this summer’s “Moulin Rouge,” this musical has a story and protagonist you can latch onto. The songs (written by Angry Inch band member Stephen Trask) let us in on the psyche of Hedwig, a character so charming and sympathetic, I found his monologues and observations just as thrilling and poignant as some of the songs he uses to express them. The music never overshadows the story and the story never sinks to the level of dumbed-down sappiness or pretence. You’ll be humming the tunes to yourself on the way out of the theater while at the same time trying to remember when you laughed the hardest. And it won’t give you any headaches.

So, what does “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” mean anyway? Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell) grew up as a boy in Germany under his birth name Hansel. Hedwig tells us that he has been touched by so many people in his life, but not in the way a boy is touched by an angel. No, Hedwig grew up as the victim of pedophilia. One day, his mother walked in on him and his father sleeping in bed together. His mother promptly threw the father out and Hansel never saw him again. Poverty stricken beyond belief, Hansel would sleep on the kitchen oven rack while listening and connecting to rock and roll music on a tiny one-speaker radio. He finds rockers such as David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop taking over where his father left off.

In one of the movie’s more bizarre flashbacks, Hansel falls in love with a tall, black, muscular Army Sergeant named Luther (Maurice Dean Witt). Luther wants to marry Hansel and take him to America. But this being a still-divided Germany, Hansel must make sacrifices in order to obtain a passport to leave the country as Luther’s wife. With his mother’s approval, Hansel undergoes a sex change. However, the surgeon botches the operation leaving a small lump of flesh where Hansel’s manhood once hanged, hence the “Angry Inch.”

Luther and Hansel’s marriage in a trailer home doesn’t last too long, but just as Germany’s wall crumbles (circa 1990), Hansel realizes his true potential as a woman of rock and roll. In what will definitely be regarded as the catchiest of all the songs in this movie (so much so, Hedwig and his band invite the audience to sing along), Hansel dons the big blonde flip wig that will change his/her life. Hansel becomes Hedwig, a transsexual drag queen with a Divine attitude, a heart of gold lame’, and a bruised soul to bare.

While working as a nanny, Hedwig meets Tommy (Michael Pitt), a young, naïve Jesus follower “of surprising depth.” The two strike up a friendship through writing songs and practicing music, that which brings these two halves together. As expected, though, Tommy can’t cope with Hedwig’s deformity and the two halves split.

Hedwig’s band tours salad bars across the country as a shadow of Tommy’s North American stadium tour while Hedwig’s manager tries to get in touch with Tommy’s lawyers to file a suit against him for plagiarism. Now, I’m sure, this all sounds like the plot to a John Waters movie, but “Hedwig” tells its story from the heart and soul without a trace of camp or cheap gross-out gags (not that I have anything against John Waters, you understand).

John Cameron Mitchell gives one of the year’s most memorable performances as Hedwig. He also wrote and directed the movie, which he first conceived as an off-Broadway play (currently playing in Chicago, but on temporary hiatus). He wrote quite a juicy part for himself, but one never gets the sense that he did this out of pure ego. He clearly has affection for this character. He wrote the part and plays the part as though he has to cast out every side of every one of Hedwig’s demons as well as his own demons. It might be enough for you to want to read up on where the parallels between Hedwig and Mitchell lay, truly the mark of a great writer/actor.

Mitchell does just as well as director. Stage plays sometimes have a problem with working as movies especially when the director has little interest in altering the text, lacking a sense of adventure. They do nothing to give us a reason as to why a movie had to be made out of it (see “Hurly Burly” or “The Big Kahuna”). Mitchell jettisons the stage-play idea altogether by taking us from the dank horrors of his childhood in Germany to the open fields of a Lillith Fair-like music festival where Hedwig performs on Stage # 9 to an audience of one. The musical numbers leap off the screen with wonderful interspersions of simple almost stick-figure animation to help propel the story. As I said before, Mitchell doesn’t play it up as camp, but as high art.

“Hedwig” has been compared to the all-time cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but unlike that campy 1975 musical, “Hedwig” delves deeper into its subject. Sure, it has the make-up, the transsexuals, the kitsch and the rock and roll drama, but “Hedwig”’s conclusion, which stumbles slightly in the third act with an overly simplistic car crash scenario, will have you pondering many of the story’s philosophical issues. Perhaps the search for your other half and the struggle to hold onto it shouldn’t be as important as making peace with every aspect of your own personal self as it stands. Maybe, just maybe, a little bit of Hedwig exists in all of us. If so…don’t dream it, be it.

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originally posted: 08/08/01 23:16:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
2/13/09 Sonja Definitely nothing like RHPS but has its own charm. Refreshing. 4 stars
9/26/08 Timothy Kirkland Well though out movie, great writing. 2 or 3 powerful songs, point on acting 4 stars
9/02/08 pin very well made. great acting. wonderful soundtrack. a sad pleasure. 4 stars
8/24/07 Dark Enchantress great movie! 5 stars
8/23/07 AMT It was crazy, and scary, and appauling, but in an absolutely amazing thought provoking way! 5 stars
3/21/07 James Dunn Sing-a-long fun for all fans of Glam rock! Amazing songs! 5 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday How do I describe how much I loved this movie, especially "What do you think of the pelt?" 5 stars
8/19/06 Verrine The movie, the music & the look were great. 5 stars
6/09/06 Polly-Anne Interesting, alittle trippy at times. Iwant her hair! 5 stars
5/24/06 Billy Death to us part 1 stars
9/19/05 Sam Poignant, bizarre, creative, thought-provoking... on my top 100 movies ever list 5 stars
10/22/04 Linda Perfect!!!! 5 stars
7/20/04 Tina Awesome Music. Loved It!! 5 stars
7/14/04 DM Moving, but not as much plain fun as "Rocky Horror" 4 stars
6/17/04 KT I love this as much as RHPS...and what's wrong with Tim Curry in fishnets? He's hot! 5 stars
6/11/04 tatum The best musically inclined film since "Cabaret" 5 stars
5/15/04 laura an excelant film !!! the best of it's kind !!!!! 5 stars
4/30/04 Jessica Visually and emotionally stunning 5 stars
4/22/04 Kristin Krawczak i would love to see this beautiful woman face to face someday! 5 stars
3/22/04 Leon Wish I had see it in a theater instead of Cable 5 stars
3/06/04 Kelly It's an awesome awesome movie. 5 stars
2/05/04 Pia My Oh how it completed Roskilde festival, with an open screen-show!! great! 5 stars
1/29/04 Darcy brilliant, completely amasing 5 stars
1/25/04 Elena I adore the sarcastic humour and subtle wit of Hedwig's character. ORIGINAL, WONDERFUL FILM 5 stars
12/26/03 Lynda Vick My whole family loved this movie! (Yes, I allowed my teens to watch it with us) 5 stars
11/28/03 Christine THIS MOVIE IS THE BEST!!! IT ROCKS!!! 5 stars
9/25/03 kevin great movie, even greater theatrical musical 5 stars
8/06/03 Lorenz Esguerra Enjoyed it n Sundance! Had to own the DVD! 5 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink This movie fuckin ROCKS!!! 5 stars
3/23/03 the Number Yellow John Cameron Mitchell is brilliant. Words don't describe it. 5 stars
11/01/02 Marla brilliant 4 stars
10/27/02 katty how can you NOT like this?!?!?! 5 stars
10/02/02 Alexa John Cameron Mitchell is a genius. Micael Pitt is beautiful. Miriam Shor is amazing 5 stars
9/20/02 jacintha Absolutely the most wonderful, poignant, thought-provoking movie i have ever seen! 5 stars
9/07/02 Nettie This movie was SO amazing. It's Rocky Horror, Moulin Rouge in a beatiful love story 5 stars
7/24/02 zRebecca All crossdressed people in the film hate their persona. Trans Bashing Gay Movie; no thanks. 4 stars
6/09/02 hum interesting and apealing 4 stars
3/02/02 Unagiboy My favorite pic for 2001. This was the wittiest movie in a long time. 5 stars
2/27/02 natasha the movie about making the movie on the DVD is as good as the film itself 5 stars
2/25/02 KRP This is the best musical in a long time (even beats out Disney musical cartoons) 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Not a well made film. I didn't like the music. 2 stars
2/18/02 Andrew Carden Not Horrible, but Very Weak and Long Movie. 2 stars
2/15/02 rue the whirl i loved it. it was much better than "cats"...i'm going to see it again and again 5 stars
1/31/02 Don Hite Perfect mix of wit, music, and substance. Light-hearted and heart-wrenching at once! 5 stars
12/23/01 tenshi awesome movie!! one of my faves. right up there with rocky horror 5 stars
12/20/01 The Bomb 69 completely original, music was awesome and intrical to the storyline, more dialogue plz 5 stars
12/06/01 Mrs Reaney Will you sleep with me anybody. 5 stars
11/27/01 ^Elendil^ Musicals just don't work for me. 3 stars
11/09/01 Belinda Boring as hell. 2 stars
9/30/01 daniboy this should get nomianated 5 stars
9/26/01 steven The soundtrack was the first cd I bought, instead of downloaded, in a year-year and a half. 5 stars
9/03/01 KCobain Not too impressive. Overblown with too much filler. Doesn't make the grade. 2 stars
9/01/01 Andros Fucking awesome movie. Listening to the soundtrack that kicks ass! 5 stars
8/29/01 Cara The best time I've had at a movie in years. I'm still singing! 5 stars
8/25/01 Jake Overrated. Only mildly entertaining and doesn't mesh well. 3 stars
8/24/01 The Graduate Great music, and really moving. Surprisingly un-campy. See it in the theater! 5 stars
8/23/01 Marce I love Hedwig!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/22/01 Sean Kicks Ass 5 stars
8/21/01 Bridgette Summer Surprise 5 stars
8/18/01 bowie923 Amazing. Compelling, involving story + great music. 5 stars
8/16/01 Dave To say it is a gay Spinal Tap is not doing it enough justice! 5 stars
8/08/01 Vicious Toy/Electric Crotch The fucking summer movie of 2001! 5 stars
8/06/01 Jimmy S Blown Away 5 stars
8/06/01 Lynnette Kinter Amazing, Amazing, Amazing 5 stars
8/04/01 David Steinberg Goodbye to old notions of gender! 5 stars
8/04/01 Sarsi Snapdragon *orgasm* Damn, that was good. 5 stars
8/03/01 Mr. X Great movie, although it is missing some info from the stage production. 5 stars
8/02/01 Nick Romantic My God!!! I haven't been fucked like that since grade school. 5 stars
8/02/01 Greg The best film ever! 5 stars
8/02/01 killer I've been 5 times so far, and I aint quitin anytime soon. 5 stars
8/01/01 Two-Spirit Rock N Roll Queer Heaven.!!! 5 stars
8/01/01 pink addict utter brilliance 5 stars
8/01/01 erin it ROCKS! 5 stars
8/01/01 Wicked Little Sarah Pull your wig off the shelf and see this movie! NOW! 5 stars
8/01/01 jamie dont let the premise make you pre-judge...this has something for everyone! 5 stars
8/01/01 Daniel Hirshleifer Best movie of 2001, hands down! 5 stars
8/01/01 jamie dont let the premise make you pre-judge...this has something for everyone! 5 stars
8/01/01 Anthony No other film like it. Maybe I'm biased. 5 stars
8/01/01 Matthew Harris Havin' a "Barbie Doll crotch" may not be such a bad thing. 5 stars
8/01/01 Derek Martin this movie rules 5 stars
7/31/01 Loretta Jones Wonderful! Don't miss it! 5 stars
7/29/01 Kurt Translated brilliantly from stage to screen! 5 stars
7/28/01 Blubberbot I liked 5 stars
7/27/01 GeorgE McCaul i really liked this movie but RHPS is still #1 in my mind 5 stars
7/26/01 michael lavin Have seen the Manhatan off broadway Hedwig seven time and can't wait for the film version. 5 stars
7/24/01 david Hedwig Rocks!! 5 stars
7/21/01 skye LOVED IT! butiworrythathedwigwillbecomemainstreamandloseitscharm.notforeveryone. 5 stars
7/15/01 ZachF wonderful, best of Sundance 5 stars
5/25/01 Thor-Leo A blast. 5 stars
5/05/01 Irina Alex brilliant music,touching acting 5 stars
5/02/01 BitchGoddess Brilliant, hysterical, priceless, delicious, sarcastic, intimate, not just for gays at all. 5 stars
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  20-Jul-2001 (R)
  DVD: 11-Dec-2001

  17-Aug-2001 (15)

  01-Nov-2001 (MA)

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