Swan Song (2021)

TODD STEPHENS

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 2021. , . Screenplay by Todd Stephens. Cinematography by . Produced by , , , Todd Stephens, . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by , .

A sweet character piece performed in a minor key provides ample opportunity for gemlike moments of discovery between characters in this independent oddity, but director Todd Stephens fumbles just about every scene that could have been special and the experience is a flat collection of misfires. gives a laboured performance as an aging hairdresser who lives in a nursing home following a stroke, completely cut off from his former life as the owner of the best salon in his tiny town of Sandusky, Ohio.

Out of the blue, Kier gets a visit from the lawyer who tells him that his client, one of the city’s leading socialite heiresses (played in a lovely cameo by ), has passed away and has requested that Kier be the one to style her in her coffin before she is buried. He refuses the request immediately but, after ruminating on the matter and realizing that his life in this stinking hellhole doesn’t provide much of a future, he packs up his More cigarettes and busts out of the joint with the intention of walking to the funeral home and saying his goodbyes to his old friend.

Walking across town towards his destination, he encounters a number of characters who give him various forms of aid, first at his former beauty supply store that has become a black womens’ hair salon, then a former customer () who helps him out with his wardrobe, a turgid reunion with a former employee turned rival ( in a very bad wig), a brief meeting with Evans’ grandson () and a visit to his old haunt, the gay bar where he was once the star of the late night stage shows but which is now closing to be remodeled as an artisanal brewery.

Along the way we pick up bits and pieces of the reason why Kier is alone and what drove him and Evans apart, having to do with his late partner and a betrayal in both business and friendship. Everything about it is lovely in theory, but between the bad editing, ugly cinematography and some truly hammy acting from a number of performers who come off surprisingly inept, it’s very difficult to see through the bad stuff and appreciate the things that make this film cherishable.

Themes of intergenerational gay culture and chosen family aren’t explored in films on a daily basis, and that will make it a worthy watch for audiences who are willing to ignore the fact that it’s never particularly funny or insightful, and what’s worse, Kier at times doesn’t seem to know his lines.

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