Directed By: John Cameron Mitchell
Starring: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor
Tag line: "An anatomically incorrect rock odyssey"
Trivia: The original stage version played Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theatre for over two years.
The brainchild of writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch relates the strange story of Hedwig (played by Mitchell), a female Rock star who was, at one time, a boy named Hansel, living in Communist East Berlin. Life for Hansel changed the moment he met an American soldier (Maurice Dean Wint), who convinced him to undergo a sex change operation, so that they could be married. But the operation was botched, leaving Hansel with a new name, Hedwig, but no true sexual identity. Hedwig did marry her soldier, but the wedded bliss didn't last very long, leaving her alone in America and forced to accept babysitting jobs to scrape by. Through it all, her dreams of becoming a rock star were never far from Hedwig's thoughts, and her big chance finally arrived when she met Tommy (Michael Pitt), himself a fledgling musician. Hedwig taught Tommy everything she knew about music, and in the process, the two fell in love. Alas, Tommy found he couldn't deal with Hedwig’s unusual sexuality, so he abandoned her. What's worse, he stole the songs he and Hedwig had written together, and before long, was performing them to packed arenas, a full-fledged rock superstar. As a form of revenge for stomping on her heart and stabbing her in the back, Hedwig makes it her goal in life to expose Tommy as a fraud, forming her own band (made up entirely of illegal immigrants), and, with the help of her manager, Phyllis (Andrea Martin), following Tommy's tour around the country, all the while performing for the inhospitable crowds who frequent the family-style restaurants that book her.
Granted, this is a strange back story, yet despite its unusual nature, Hedwig and the Angry Inch possesses a spirit and vitality that makes it all seem perfectly normal. I was drawn into this story of rags to...well, more rags, but what I loved most about the film was the music. Every song in this movie has the potential to become a camp classic. My personal favorite is The Origin of Love, which tells a fascinating, life-affirming tale of mythical gods, the splintering of humanity, and the ultimate creation of love.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a wild, extravagant film that thumbs its nose at traditional ideologies as they pertain to love, sex, masculinity, and even rock music. It shocks as it threatens convention, so much so that we're initially of the same mindset as the poor, unsuspecting patrons of the various family restaurants where the Angry Inch performs, who seem unwilling to accept such an eccentric lead singer. Yet Hedwig and the Angry Inch is infused with a fresh energy, and the part of Hedwig is played with such heart by John Cameron Mitchell that the film slowly breaks down our inhibitions. With wry humor, a bit of pathos, and some catchy tunes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is sure to engage even the most conservative-minded audience members.