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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

TIFF - Bam Bam and Celeste

Program: Discovery
Director: Lorene Machado
Country: USA
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 85 minutes
Production Company: SALTY Features/Cho Taussig Productions/Nuit Blanche Productions
Executive Producer: Michael Hakan, Julie Huntsinger
Producer: Eva Kolodner, Yael Melamede, Karen Taussig, Margaret Cho
Screenplay: Margaret Cho
Cinematography: Matthew Clark
Editor: Philip Harrison
Production Designer: John Chichester
Sound: Jerry Ross, George Berndt
Music: Pat Irwin
Principal Cast: Margaret Cho, Bruce Daniels, Alan Cumming, John Cho, Elaine Hendrix, Jane Lynch

Uproarious comic genius Margaret Cho is a revolutionary figure in American entertainment. Her self-proclaimed fag-hag status and her gently confrontational, self-mocking racial humour have changed the language of stand-up - not least regarding those comedy club put-down staples, gays and Asians - forever. And she has hand-delivered this seismic shift wrapped in an overall message of personal liberation and unironic self-respect that makes her a major force for good in this world.

In Bam Bam and Celeste, Cho gets to invest everything that makes her great in a madcap road movie that features all of her favourite targets and loves: freaky sex, growing up a loser, TV in every form and, of course, her glorious mother, full of kooky wisdom and breathtaking malapropisms that leave you laughing for days.

Cho is Celeste, an overweight, Korean, former goth punk, while her longtime friend and collaborator Bruce Daniels plays Bam Bam, a hyper-queeny, African-American stylist. They are both thirty-three years old and stuck in a dreary Midwestern city where they have been teased and beaten up since high school. It seems like the only person who loves them is Mommy (Cho, of course), Celeste’s mother, known for her big sweaters and bizarre advice.

Salvation for the pair comes in the form of a reality TV make-over show looking for a challenge. Their trip to New York to volunteer themselves is fraught with peril - they are saved from thugs by, ahem, a rugged outdoorswoman ( Jane Lynch from Christopher Guest’s Best in Show) and insulted by a racist gas station attendant. Finally, with much encouragement from the show’s precious booking assistant (Alan Cumming), they arrive in New York. Fate - in the form of a showdown at the beauty salon owned by their high school nemeses - tries to rip them apart just before their big triumph, but Mommy saves the day in the nick of time.

Having this much fun almost makes you feel guilty, except that Cho and company set such a gloriously eccentric example, you can’t help but want to join them on this uplifting and sidesplitting journey.

Ah, not sidesplitting. It was funny and as a fag hag myself, I definitely got the inside jokes, but it was a little over the top and not always delivering the expected laughs. I appreciate the fact that she’s taking small situations and blowing them widely out of proportion in order to make her points and that this is largely because the points she’s trying to get across are typically lost or non-existent in the current cultural landscape – things like gay relationships, racism in everyday life, the face of the Asian person in America. Perhaps because I don’t belong to any of those demographics, I didn’t fall in love with the story as much as someone who felt invested in those storylines.

Overall, not a bad film and likely as Greektown suggested, destined to be a cult classic.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 12:55 PM :: 1 Comments:

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