Man in a Desert Town: Our Review of ‘Swan Song’

Posted in Theatrical, Virtual Cinema, What's Streaming? by - August 04, 2021
Man in a Desert Town: Our Review of ‘Swan Song’

Mister Pat (Udo Kier) tries to get out of the Ohio home where he thought he’d spend his last days. His contentment at nursing home was debatable, but a visitor cemented his desire to leave. That visitor. Mr. Shanrock (Tom Bloom) informs him that his senor ex-client, Sandusky socialite Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Evans) passed away. And that she, as her dying wish, wants him to do her hair and makeup for her funeral. He mulls over that wish for a while until he makes a run from the home. What ensues is a flaneur’s film that’s basically both camp and subtle, where repeat viewings reveal jokes about old Pat not fitting in with 21st century Ohio.

Once out in Sandusky, the hairdresser revisits the townsfolk who welcome him with happy tears. He also gets into some hijinks, like checking every men’s bathroom to see whether or not his friend Eunice still hangs out there. If you know, you know. He also spends Swan Song in sweats that only Udo Kier can wear while looking like only half of a slob instead of a full one. He enhances every space he’s in in a film that puts a spin on middle American small town decay. It captures harbor fronts and small towns that look more deserted than usual.

Kier dominates in a performance that might not register with some viewers. Just like the cast, his line deliveries are campy but silent moments solidify the relationships between characters. He also lets his supporting cast shine. And Michael Urie makes for a good foil for Kier. He makes his character speak lovingly of his grandmother, Rita, while acknowledging how particular she can be. He makes deliberate choices on depicting a member of a younger generation of gay men free of the neuroses and burdens that Kier’s or even my generation had. This also has the most human performance that a director has allowed Jennifer Coolidge to make.

The past haunts Mr. Pat and he can only have a sense of catharsis by confronting his demons, alive or dead. The film gives a sense of those battlegrounds, the final one being the funeral home where Rita is resting. It’s a gargantuan structure, Pat looking microscopic in comparison. But Oat can be his larger than life self when he enters the home as he finally confronts Coolidge’s character, Dee Dee Dale. Dee Dee acknowledges that Rita needs Pat’s touch. They literally use a hairbrush as an olive branch, but only this movie can make a gag have that kind of emotional weight.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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