Written and directed by Todd Stephens, a retired hairdresser escapes the confines of his small-town nursing home in Sandusky, Ohio after learning of his former client’s dying wish for him to style her final hairdo. Soon, Pat embarks on an odyssey to confront the ghosts of his past – and collect the beauty supplies necessary for the job. Starring: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay, Tom Bloom, Justin Lonesome and Shanessa Sweeney.
While Pat (Udo Kier) may have grown older, his vibrant personality has certainly not weakened. Udo Kier creates a stubborn, lively and biting man who’s a little down on his luck and yet surprisingly determined. However, he does feel somewhat stereotypical, falling into fairly clichéd territory of gay characters, still enjoyable but not as unique as hoped. He also holds a heavy sadness, not only from the constant cloud which hangs over his head of his late partner but also from a sense of hopelessness. Although, the rest of the ensemble is a nice attempt to balance that out, Jennifer Coolidge is always a memorable addition and Michael Urie has such an endearing quality. Stephanie McVay and Justin Lonesome also have plenty to add with their own touching moments.
There’s one theme of Swan Song which is utterly inescapable, it sets the tone for the entire film, and it’s death. A large portion of the film feels like Pat facing his mortality, revisiting moments of his life knowing that his end is inevitably near. It’s more than a worthwhile subject to explore but the film is also attempting to be light-hearted and the two don’t entirely blend, ultimately feeling lachrymose. It holds things back from becoming more charming or energetic, which in turn makes it struggle to build more depth. The emotions are there but it feels as though we’re only scratching the surface until the very end, when it’s too late.
However, Todd Stephens’ direction is solid throughout, where the story misses out on hope, the visual brings forth a great deal of colour. It surprisingly captures an extremely close community feel, it’s an unusual find to get a film set in small-town America where everyone is accepting and kind but it’s also a refreshing change. There’s a sincerity to the aesthetic, Pat may have an outlandish, loud personality but that doesn’t change the genuine, down to earth quality to the visual.
Swan Song blends trying to recapture the good memories while unable to escape the bad following Udo Kier’s eccentric performance, intensely pulling the spotlight to him. Although, the lingering air of death makes the film struggle to find a larger emotional depth. It has personality but misses out on charm to draw you further in.