Swan Song

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Swan Song
dir-scr Todd Stephens
prd Todd Stephens, Eric Eisenbrey, Tim Kaltenecker, Rhet Topham, Stephen Israel
with Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay, Thom Hilton, Justin Lonesome, Tom Bloom, Shanessa Sweeney, Jonah Blechman, Annie Kitral
release US 6.Aug.21,
UK 10.Jun.22
21/US 1h45

coolidge evans urie

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coolidge and kier
Iconic schlock actor Udo Kier gets the role of his life in this drama "inspired by a true icon". Writer-director Todd Stephens indulges in stylised slow motion and big musical beats to get under the character's skin, but the result is warm and sensitive. Even as it meanders, the film is emotionally involving, ultimately finding lovely things to say about a subculture that plays an important role in society.
Living in a nursing home, stylist Pat (Kier) dreams of past glories. Then in her will, old friend Rita (Evans) asks him to do her hair and makeup for her funeral. "Bury her with bad hair," Pat snaps, still nursing a grudge. But he has second thoughts, revisiting his life as he walks across his Ohio town. This includes stopping at his long-time partner's grave, as well as the beauty supply shop owned by his rival Dee Dee (Coolidge). The question is whether he'll be able to get over the past and do Rita's hair.
Pat may move slowly (there's a reference to a stroke), but he's sharper than he looks. And as he interacts with a terrific collection of people, he transforms back into the fabulous figure he used to be. This is depicted in a swirling mix of realism and imaginative fantasy, with Pat's past and present mingling in his consciousness, raising up old feelings that he has never dealt with. The story may be episodic, but it has a strong sense of motion even in detours along the way.

As he shifts from grey to vivid full-colour, Kier reignites Pat's jagged humour and bitchiness. No wonder a former client (McVay) refers to him as "the Liberace of Sandusky". Each sequence carries a nice kick, from more thoughtful encounters with the superb Coolidge to an energetically hilarious reunion with the sparky Hawkins as an old colleague. Urie also has strong presence as Rita's grandson, and Evans gets an excellent scene that offers a complex road to redemption.

There are several pointed story elements along the way, such as Pat's visit to the gay bar where he used to perform, finding that this is its final night before closing to become a trendy microbrewery. Some scenes drift a little over the top, straining for laughs or emotions, but the storyline has a gently affecting tone that makes it surprisingly resonant, offering a glimpse at a life that seems low-key and relatively insignificant, but which has had a major impact on the much wider community.

cert 15 themes, language 4.Dec.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall