Based on the life of an eccentric legend in small town Ohio, this film is an amazing look at redemption driven by a tour de force performance by the legendary Udo Kier.
Pat Pitsenbarger was once the hottest hairdresser in Sandusky, Ohio. An eccentric, he now lives in an assisted living facility years after the death of his longtime partner, David, whom he still mourns. When he is approached by Mr. Shannock, the attorney of a famous actress Rita Parker Sloan, to do her hair and make up at her funeral, at first, he refuses. However, Pat decides to do the job and begins a long quest on foot to the funeral home.
Along the way, Pat comes to the shocking realization that everything has changed. He has learned that his former beauty product shop has now become a hair salon. His house has been demolished. He even runs into a former protégé, Dee Dee, who has since become the most successful hairstylist in town. Along the way, he reconnects with people who knew him from his past as well as those who make him aware that the LGBTQ community has changed, but at times for the better. Will Pat finally come to terms with the world changing and comes to terms with himself in the process?
What is very interesting with this film is that I heard about this film during a 2019 interview with the legendary Udo Kier. After a successful Kickstarter fund, filmmaker Todd Stephens has crafted the tale of an LGTBQ icon from his hometown that he had met one time. However, the legend of the late Pat Pitsenbarger as seen in this film is one about accepting the changing of the world as well as coming to grips with his own life as it is clear that he is a lonely man who has lost those close to him and seeks a way to redeem himself.
This is the defining career moment for Kier, an actor who got his start as a member of the Andy Warhol universe of films then became a renowned villain and supporting actor whose career include working with the likes of Madonna and Wesley Snipes to name a few. However, it is this film that Kier as the lead as his tour de force performance. From the film’s opening scene, where we see Kier’s Pitsenbarger on a grand stage declaring he is back followed by a sense of reality where we see him in a nursing home, where he is forced to hide his cigarettes and is constantly told to elevate his head from the resident nurse.
It is once we see Pat on his quest to the funeral home that things really picked up. We get to see Pat slowly evolve from his tiresome look of sporting sweatshirt and sweatpants to reliving his glory days of sporting 70’s vintage fashion as an LGBTQ icon. However, the road to redemption is clearly not easy when it comes to some of the supporting characters. Jennifer Coolidge does an amazing job as former protégé Dee Dee, who at first ridicules Pat upon seeing him again but realizes the situation and feels pity and later respect for him as does a former customer who despite seeing him just once, is shocked when he remembers her.
The film also gives Kier a chance to show a powerful emotional performance when he finds himself speaking to people who don’t know him but like the fact, he brings a sense of nostalgia to what life was like when he was vibrant and alive. This is especially seen in a scene where Pat goes to a one-time drag club where he was the hottest star in the day only to learn it is the final night. So what better way to go out with a bang to see Pat finally feel alive again and if that’s not great, wait until the final ten minutes because they are unforgettable.
Swan Song is the career defining film for Udo Kier, who brings a duality of vibrancy and emotion in the role of a real-life small-town icon. This is a definitive film about acceptance and change in small town America all with Kier’s tour de force performance.
WFG RATING: A+
Magnolia Pictures presents a Luna Pictures production in association with Night of Gemini. Director: Todd Stephens. Producers: Todd Stephens, Eric Eisenbrey, Stephen Israel, Tim Kaltenecker, and Rhet Topham. Writer: Todd Stephens. Cinematography: Jackson Warner Lewis. Editing: Spencer Schilly and Santiago Figueira W.
Cast: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Roshon Thomas, Ira Hawkins, Annie Kitral, Tom Bloom, Eric Eisenbrey, Dave Sorboro, Bryant Carroll, Catherine L. Albers, Stephanie McVay, Shanessa Sweeney.