(director/writer: Todd Stephens; cinematographer: Jackson Warner Lewis; editors: Spencer Schilly/ Santiago Figueira W; music: Chris Stephens; cast: Udo Kier (Pat Pitsenbarger), Jennifer Coolidge (Dee Dee Dale),Linda Evans (Rita Parker Sloan), Mical Urie (Dustin), Ira Hawkins (Eunice), Stepanie McVay (Sue), Justin Lonesome (Miss Velma, drag artist), Tom Bloom (Mr. Shanrock), Eric Eisenbrey (David) Annie Kitral (Gertie), Roshon Thomas (Schaundell); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Todd Stephens, Eric Eisenbrey, Tim Kaltenecker, Stephen Israel, Rhet Topham: Magnolia Pictures; 2021)
“Campy but poignant and charming tribute film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Writer-director Todd Stephens (“Another Gay Movie”/”Gypsy 83”), from Sandusky, Ohio, pays homage to a real-life local legend from Sandusky in this campy but poignant and charming tribute film to the gay hairdresser protagonist. It’s great because of the captivating performance by the 76-year-old character actor from Germany, Udo Kier, in a rare starring role, delightfully playing Pat Pitsenbarger, the flamboyant gay hairdresser who as a sideline performed at the local bar under the stage name of Mr. Pat.
He’s dressed in a mint-green pantsuit and burgundy fedora as he rides in an electric wheel-chair down the streets of Sandusky for his final performance. As after his stroke and many years in an assisted living nursing home, the gay hairdresser, out for ages, and had a blast acting swish in his younger days, now lives a drab life in the home.
The story, a reminder of David Lynch’s self-reflective The Straight Story (1999), tells the same theme as a gay story. It revolves around a former client (Linda Evans) of Pat’s, dying and having in her will that Pat does her hair for the funeral and collects $25,000 for the cut. Which is where Pat is rushing off to in his wheel-chair, hoping to be there in time.
Along the way Pat encounters some of the eccentrics he knew and interacts with them. In the course of his ride, we learn of the financial difficulties that cost him his home and his business after losing to AIDS his partner David (producer Eric Eisenbrey, seen in flashback). Chris Stephens’ score reflects the somber mood Pat gets in when visiting the cemetery where his partner is buried.
Pat’s on a comical and bittersweet journey, whereby his old flamboyant sparkle returns when leaving the drab nursing home and greeting old friends and mulling over his life. It could have been an even greater film but Stephens is no Lynch and the narrative is uneven and parts of it don’t make a connection.
REVIEWED ON 9/5/2021 GRADE: B+