SXSW 2021 Review: SWAN SONG

By Jan Hamilton

Director/Screenwriter: Todd Stephens, Producers: Todd Stephens, Eric Eisenbrey, Tim Kaltenecker, Stephen Israel
An aging hairdresser (Udo Kier) escapes his nursing home and embarks on an odyssey across his small town to style a dead woman’s hair for her funeral, rediscovering his sparkle along the way. Cast List: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay (World Premiere)

Mr. Pat (Udo Kier), as he is called, seems to be doing as he pleases in the nursing home where he resides. One day an attorney visits to say that his former patron, Rita Parker Sloan has died, and had previously requested that Mr. Pat do her final hair and make-up. He refuses, but later that evening looks through old photos of the two of them. Later a nurse finds his carton of Marlboro’s and confiscates it. Apparently changing his mind about the job offer, the next day he packs his hair dressing tools and flees on foot. He hitches a ride and goes to visit his boyfriend’s grave, where there is a space for him in future. He visits the shop of his former apprentice, now enemy, Dee Dee, she (Jennifer Coolidge) stole his best clients, including Rita, when she left him, his shop was never able to recover. He can’t get an advance on the $2500 payment he will receive for the job so he steals the supplies he will need. He meets Dustin, Rita’s grandson and for the first time, sees the inside of Rita’s mansion.

All kinds of things happen as he wanders about town. He has conversations with people that we know are dead, he visits his old drag-bar, dances, collapses, is briefly hospitalized, and finally goes to the funeral home when Rita waits. From Dustin, he finds out that Rita (Linda Evans) cared for him more than he knew.

This was a delightful re-imagining of the life of a real person from Sandusky, Ohio. The colorful Mr. Pat was clearly well liked by the town, and this is a great tribute to him. Udo Keir, the brilliant German actor, brings life and depth to the role of this determined, driven man. Just when you think he is totally selfish, he surprises you. The film is comic without resorting to farce, and at times tender without being sentimental.  I very much like it, and unequivocally recommend it.

Leave a comment