Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for explicit language and sexuality
Run Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
From: Jeanne Aufmuth, a freshly converted fan
Dear Hedwig, I caught your kinky musical mockumentary and am itching (not inching) to spill my guts. Your creator, writer/director and uber-clever star John Cameron Mitchell, is something of a genius for adapting his off-Broadway hit into a phenomenally weird and wacky movie that will surely supplant “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as the midnight cult film of this millennium.
Your background is the stuff that movies are made of. Literally. Born a girly-boy by the name of Hansel, product of a wandering GI and an East German mother, you survived a lonely, neglected childhood in walled-up East Berlin. You caught the eye of a randy soldier while in your teens. (You go, boy-girl!) In order to escape the dreary existence of East Germany, you agreed to a blushing bride metamorphosis, succumbing to a nasty sex-change operation. It wasn’t as successful as one would have liked, and oops!, instead of a level result you were stuck with a lifeless inch of flesh between your legs. No worries, mate, everyone has his/her cross to bear.
Your music, simply summed up as anthems of rage, is a lot more significant than you give it credit for, and goes a long way towards warding off the demons of your life-sized regret. Your lyrics are offensive and off-color, but diversity is what makes the world turn, babe. Yeah, you’re stuck making the rounds of Bilgewater’s Seafood restaurants in Kansas, Massachusetts, and Florida, not to mention the definitely-not-Woodstock Menses Fair, but you’re getting heard (by the handful of patrons sober enough to absorb your art). I particularly enjoy your brazen panache, even when you’re being systematically screwed over by lover/protégé (and now mega-superstar) Tommy Gnosis. You taught him everything he knows about rock and roll, Hedwig, and he purloined your songs and your heart. The shame of it all. As far as exploring the significance of wholeness and the fickle fates of love, you are to be commended for digging deep into the trenches of your mixed-up soul and relentlessly pursuing emotional clarity.
Finally, Hedwig, your movie deserves endless kudos for its unique mix of music, tale-telling, and animated graphics that illustrate some of the more perverse points of being a transsexual. Something for everybody, eh? A bit of Zeus’ myth, a tad of Freud, everything but the kitchen sink. I laughed, I surreptitiously shed a tear, and I was struck by the poignant manner by which you explore your pain via your music. I bought your soundtrack, Hedwig, so while I have one hand in my pocket, the other one’s giving you a high five.