A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main character in this energetic musical is a man who has undergone a botched sex change operation and lives life as a sort of drag queen rock star. Sexual dancing, innuendo, profanity, and tension thread through the entire film, including discussion of prostitution and oral sex. One scene includes brief, loveless intercourse where bodies are covered by a sheet, and another indicates an offscreen sexual act involving a hand. A couple scenes show male nudity from behind, and one segment shows illustrations of naked, non-sexual men and women.
What's the story?
Hedwig started life as a young boy in East Berlin. He ends up as a she, touring the Midwest as a fabulously be-wigged transsexual rock singer. The story of Hedwig's early life unfolds in flashbacks: he was born Hansel, of a German mother and American serviceman. After his mother suspects his father of sexually abusing him, she kicks him out. As a teenager, young Hansel meets a handsome American serviceman, who offers escape to the United States through marriage. So young Hansel becomes Hedwig in a botched sex-change operation (hence the "angry inch"). The new husband moves Hedwig to Kansas and eventually leaves her in a trailer park. Here Hedwig meets the young teenage Tommy, who she grooms to be a musician and eventually a rock star, all while nursing an uncomfortable romance. When Tommy makes it big, he cuts his ties to Hedwig. She goes on tour, shadowing Tommy's appearances, and wielding anger, resentment, pain, and eventually hope, on stage.
Is it any good?
What started as a cult success off-Broadway translates surprisingly well on-screen -- perhaps because John Cameron Mitchell, who wrote and starred as Hedwig onstage, also directs and stars here. Mitchell portrays Hedwig with such poignancy -- someone who is both cruel and vulnerable, desperate and hopeful. The film uses illustration, flashbacks, surrealism, and music to create a unique film that's both fun to watch, at times hilariously witty, and touching too -- just not for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender identity. What do you believe makes someone a man or a woman? What is Hedwig? What do you think about people who change their physical body to be more like a different gender?
Besides someone's body, what else makes someone a man or a woman? What did you think about Hedwig's "Origin of Love" idea?
- In theaters: July 27, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: December 11, 2001
- Cast: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt
- Director: John Cameron Mitchell
- Studio: New Line
- Genre: Musical
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: adult content, graphic language, mild violence, nudity, and strong sexual content.
For kids who love quirky characters
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.