Swan Song (2021). Photo Credit: Udo Kier in SWAN SONG, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo by Chris Stephens. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Swan Song (2021)

"Bury her with bad hair." - Pat Pitsenbarger

Udo Kier delivers a sensational performance in this charming independent feature from Todd Stephens.

In Swan Song (not to be confused with the Mahershala Ali film of the same name), an aging gay hairdresser breaks out of his nursing home for one last styling. As legendary Sandusky, Ohio hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger, Kier is haunted by past memories. A lifetime of being openly gay in a small Ohio town has been rough, and he still mourns for his late partner.

Pat reconnects with friends from the past, revisits the one and only local gay bar (that is soon closing down for good) and discovers that the end of life is just another destination on life's journey. Kier has worked with legendary directors, including Lars von Trier, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Dario Argento. But this film may indeed be his best performance. I was shocked to see Kier snubbed for an Oscar nomination, but as we all know, the Academy works in mystical ways.

80's tv icon Linda Evans makes a delightful appearance here, and fan-favorite Jennifer Coolidge plays rival hairdresser Dee Dee Dale. There is plenty of star power between Kier, Coolidge, and Evans to keep this indie film rolling confidently down the road.

The beauty of Swan Song is in its simplicity. The plot sticks to a uncomplicated storyline (some have compared it to David Lynch's Straight Story), focusing on the central character. It is impossible not to be moved by Udo Kier's magnetic star turn. Pat knows that he is nearing the end of the road, and yet he is determined to keep his dignity and, above all else, stay fierce.

An underappreciated gem, Swan Song is a charmer. The film may not be a complete success, as there are some minor faults holding this indie back, but as a whole, this film succeeds as a vital character piece and a sincere love letter to small-town gay culture. (B)

Directed by Todd Stephens
Starring Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay
Genre: Drama

Photo Credit: Udo Kier in SWAN SONG, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo by Chris Stephens. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

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