2002, NR, 95 min. Directed by Lorene Machado. Starring Margaret Cho.
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Sept. 20, 2002
Rrrrrrowrrr. She's funny, she's feisty, she's a flabulous, fat-positive “fag hag,” and Margaret Cho isn't apologizing for any of it. If anything, she's upping the ante from her last one-woman show-turned-concert flick, 2000's I'm the One That I Want, cranking up the raunch a couple of notches and the personal-is-political subtext up a few more still. The resulting film, shot at Seattle's Paramount Theatre, is sure to delight Cho's rabid fans -- whom director Machado shows queuing up for tix rapaciously, as if anyone needed reminding that Cho is deservedly a patron saint of the queer-urban-hipster milieu. The confessional, personal tone of I'm the One That I Want (which described Cho's evanescent brush with small-screen stardom and subsequent spiral into depression) is largely gone, but she's as candid as ever, tackling topics like menstruation, fisting, colonic therapy, her “drag queen guardian angels,” pornography, BDSM clubs, and her quest for the elusive G-spot. The September 11 terrorist attacks also figure in (“I was there, day after day, giving blow jobs to rescue workers”). She's got the Seattle audience in the palm of her hand long before she launches into her trademark bit -- mimicking her sweet Korean mother in an over-the-top howl that would be offensive if Mom weren't in the audience, chortling away. Some of the schtick is fairly predictable, such as the inevitable “if men menstruated” scenario, but Cho's strength as a comic is her delivery. She adopts various personae -- such as Julie, a dingbat colon hydrotherapist with bad aim, and a sadistic video-rental clerk telephoning in search of the overdue Beaver Fever -- with no apparent effort. (However, an anecdote about her father's gay experience, told in the guise of her mom, is rambling.) Meanwhile, Machado makes like she's filming Courtney Love at Lollapalooza, cutting between angles with distracting frequency. It's really too bad Cho doesn't get more acting work; she has great control of her voice and her body and has a playful presence onstage, which is such a nice change from the seemingly endless parade of schlumpy, deadpan observational comics whose sitcoms actually stay on the air. Notorious C.H.O. isn't likely to put her back in the limelight, however. Since the material is so purposefully in-your-face, the film will likely appeal to the converted rather than the masses. Just the same, it's heartening to see her flailing away at patriarchy and puritanism that predominates in American culture -- and having such a fucking great time doing it.