“Swan Song” begins with the threadbare set-up one would expect from a ’70s crime thriller, only instead of a former gangster breaking out of jail to take revenge on an unsuspecting cowl, it’s an old queen coming out of a nursing home for a final job.
Pat Pitsenberger (Kier) receives a visit from a lawyer representing his former client Rita (Linda Evans), informing her that not only is Rita deceased, but that in her will she made it clear that she wanted Pat to do her hair. last time, for the funeral. It’s clear they had a tumultuous estrangement sometime before his death and Pat’s fall, but this mission, initially a request he turned down, becomes the focal point of his Twilight days. Coming back to town, collecting the right beauty products, and honoring your deceased friend becomes less of a task in itself and more of what the business represents.
The quest is littered with unsettling memories of past trauma, of Pat grappling with regret and loss – not only related to Rita, but also to her lover David who died years ago. Bittersweet ruminating on the nature of aging and the restorative power of friendship aside, “Swan Song” is not a funeral song. Stephens has a crafty sense of humor and a sweet touch as a storyteller, so as much of the pathos he’s capable of squeezing out of Pat’s journey, he also puts our flamboyant protagonist in plenty of situations designed to deliver just the right amount. lightness to keep this heavy narrative light and buoyant.
There is something so strange and heartwarming about this particular story that makes it look a bit like a camp version of Don Coscarelli’s “Bubba Ho-Tep”, but the film is less cartoonish and more rooted in the truth. Obviously, it’s Stephens’ authoritative voice and sense of humor that brings the film to life, but it’s Kier’s unmistakable central performance that sets “Swan Song” apart.
His delivery of the film’s many laugh lines will be endlessly memorable when this film hits VOD, and viewers will be able to take high-resolution screenshots of the faces he makes when he curiously surprises gems like “How does someone dawn on him?” ‘so perfect can it be on Social Security? ” Watching him try to get hold of outdated hair care products like Vivante, or insist on smoking a brand like Mores, regularly elicits humorous responses from the townspeople he meets, but it strengthens his position as a bigger outsider than nature that is remarkably out of step. with time.
Despite so many elements of queer culture that have become mainstream, Pat remains a relic from another era, and while the film does have its fair share of laughs at his character’s anachronistic nature, he never laughs. To him. It’s always with him and his observations of the changing world around him.