'Hunky Dory': Slamdance Review
A drag-queen dad learns to bond with his son in this glam rock-themed serio-comedy.
It’s not every 11-year-old boy with a dad who dons drag and lip syncs "Besame Mucho" in dive bars, but that’s the conceit of Hunky Dory, an uneven first feature by Michael Curtis Johnson that works best when it focuses its energies on the tender bond between the twosome.
Taking the David Bowie song as his drag name, narcissistic, bisexual Sidney (the film’s co-writer, Tomas Pais) is stuck in a glam rock-informed state of arrested development, still harboring aspirations of becoming a successful musician.
But his hedonistic Silverlake, Calif., lifestyle is somewhat cramped when his sweet son, Georgie (Edouard Holdener) is dumped at his doorstep by his paranoid-schizophrenic ex, forcing him to enlist the babysitting services of a jaundiced hooker (Nora Rothman) in order to perform a low-tipping gig.
At the heart of Hunky Dory (which also shares its title with a 2011 glam rock-themed Minnie Driver film), there’s a certifiably oddball but legitimate take on the modern dysfunctional family.
But rather than trust that core relationship to drive their story, Johnson and Pais are so preoccupied with making cash-starved Sidney such a hot mess — at one point he steals his cancer-afflicted friend’s pills and sells them to a drug dealer — that by the time the moment of redemption ultimately presents itself, all the prolonged, self-absorbed navel-gazing makes it difficult to care.
Still, despite the cliched supporting characters and dialogue, there are some good, honest performances, especially from Pais and young Holdener, who make a credible, if unorthodox, father-son unit — even if in the real world, child protective services would likely be nipping at Sidney’s high heels.
Venue: Slamdance Film Festival
Production company: Homme Fatale Films
Cast: Tomas Pais, Edouard Holdener, Nora Rothman
Director: Michael Curtis Johnson
Screenwriters: Michael Curtis Johnson, Tomas Pais
Producers: Bernie Stern, Michael Curtis Johnson, Tomas Pais
Executive producers: David Baumann, Kathleen Olejnik
Director of photography: Magela Crosignani
Production designer: Gary Barbosa
Costume designer: Kaitlin Weichsel
Editor: Max Goldblatt
Not rated, 88 minutes