An adaptation of the off-Broadway rock theatre hit, this is the story of an internationally ignored rock singer, Hedwig, and her search for stardom and love. Hedwig reluctantly submits to a sex change operation in order to marry an American G.I. and get over the Berlin Wall to freedom. The operation is botched, leaving her with the 'angry inch'. Finding herself high, dry and divorced in a Kansas trailer park, she forms a rock band and encounters a lover/protégé in young Tommy Gnosis, who eventually leaves her, steals her songs and becomes a huge rock star.
No, this is not the title of an undiscovered Dr. Seuss book. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed off-Broadway musical written by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell, with the latter also directing and starring in the film.
Hedwig tells the tale of a young East German boy who undergoes a botched sex change in order to marry an American GI and escape to the States. She then attempts to make it big in the rock scene, but has her songs stolen by a younger, more popular artist. She tells of her life whilst touring the seedy bars of suburban America with her band, The Angry Inch. Her band’s haphazard journey reflects Hedwig’s own search for love and acceptance.
This film feels like a hybrid between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Velvet Goldmine. It shares similarities in the themes of sexuality and gender exploration, and the fickleness of the Rock & Roll industry. It is also steeped in the '70s trash-glam theatrical elements that also permeate these other films with much of the story told through musical numbers that hark back to early Bowie, Queen and Lou Reed.
Hedwig swings wildly from being lurid, confronting and trashy, to moments of poignant introspection and analysis that at once celebrate and condemn the lifestyle that Hedwig leads.
John Cameron Mitchell is definitely the driving force behind this brave film. He gives a wonderful performance as Hedwig, exuding bitterness, warmth, and a very dry sense of humour. Nevertheless the direction could have been more focused as it often feels as though too many ideas and genres are being crammed into the film.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a loud, Hawaiian shirt that stands out from the sea of suits and ties. Many might cringe, but there will always be a few who will happily wear it with pride.