Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Movie Review
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The first time I ever heard the music from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I was wandering the isles of a Portland vintage store and thought to myself, I don’t think I ever want to see that depicted on the big screen. For many, I think that might be a safe assumption. I first heard of the film from a former manager of mine, who I now realize in retrospect was certainly gay, and raised an eyebrow as he relayed to me the plot. You might now be able to glimpse what kind of a movie this is.
Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I couldn’t help but take a viewing of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the glittery glam-rock cult-musical of the early 2000’s. Here we have a movie that so fully dedicates itself to it’s own concept and unique image that a certain amount of respect is immediately required from its viewer, no matter what their prior ideas regarding romanticism, sexual identity, or artistic freedom may be.
Here we are provided with the point of view of Hedwig, a transvestite who has made her way from over the Berlin wall to America as a rock star. Although, "star" might be a stretch. From the beginning, we know this isn’t any kind of rags to riches story. Hedwig makes her performances from behind salad bars or from the back of strip-mall Chinese restaurants. Nevertheless, even from these middle class venues Hedwig is a star in her own right. It’s only a shame that most of these venues are held directly behind shows featuring Hedwig’s protege. Or maybe it’s not such a coincidence, considering that he has made it to the big time by pirating all of Hedwig’s greatest hits.
Hedwig herself is a bit of a mystery, to say the least. As the title suggests, and I’ll leave you to your deductive reasoning, Hedwig is somewhere between male and female. What makes her story so fascinating however, is that this is a state that permeates her whole being in that emotionally, physically, and spiritually, she hovers somewhere in-between all humanity. Her story is told through her music, and with it she also reflects the story of all mankind, all while heavily drawing from ancient stories of Greek gods and mortals. Sometimes even with animated segments.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is revealed as a philosophical exploration. While it has certainly (with good reason) been viewed as an important work illustrating, and for some even humanizing, homosexuality, it is about so much more. It’s about people finding their place in life, the way life manages to put people into into their place, and what happens when that place is challenged.
Most of this works due to the central performances. The director here also serves as the central actor, and I believe he inhabits this role in a way few ever could. Hedwig is very much real, and she is all at once funny, endearing, and sad.
Can I recommend Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Certainly, but certainly not for everyone. There is a reason why it took me so long to watch it, and now that I have I’m really glad I did. It’s something truly original, and if you happen to be looking for something like that, well, I think you’ll be glad you watched it too.