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We become intimate with the "Sordid Lives" of a family in a small Texas town preparing for the funeral of the mother. Among the characters are the grandson trying to find his identity in West Hollywood, the son who has spent the past twenty-three years dressed as Tammy Wynette, the sister and her best friend (who live in delightfully kitschy homes), and the two daughters (one strait-laced and one quite a bit looser). Written by
Randall Gellens <email@example.com>
During Brother Boy's therapy session, his fingernails are dark red. Immediately following the session, he performs as Tammy Wynette, and his fingernails are now pale pink. See more »
You have got to get over this Tammy Wynette fixation!
Well, someone's got to carry on her legacy now that she's gone!
You've been doing this for twenty-three years! What was your excuse before she died?
My mind's a blank.
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The DVD has an extended (but deleted) version of Grandma Peggy's rant after the credits. See more »
Rather than being plot driven as in most films, "Sordid Lives" is character driven. Some ten to twelve main characters who live, or have lived, in a small town in West Texas chat, argue, hug, gossip, lament, reflect on, laugh at, debate, divulge, confer, confide in, and generally shoot the breeze, as they go about their drab existence, in preparation for a funeral. Adapted from a stage play, this film comedy is, not surprisingly, heavy on dialogue. The characters have their own unique quirks and personality idiosyncrasies, and are interesting for the most part.
Sissy (Beth Grant) is an older, fussy woman who stings herself with a rubber band on her arm, as a way to quit smoking. Latrelle (Bonnie Bedelia) and LaVonda (Ann Walker) are Sissy's two nieces who argue with each other about everything. Then you've got Noleta (Delta Burke), a tacky trailer park type married to G.W. (Beau Bridges), a man whose two wooden legs caused the death of Sissy's sister. Then there's Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan), Latrelle and LaVonda's brother, who is confined to an institution because he is a flaming transvestite who dresses like Tammy Wynette. Brother Boy is a hoot in that bizarre outfit, and with that deadpan expression and slow Texas nasal twang. To complicate matters, Latrelle's son Ty (Kirk Geiger), is a gay actor who is trying to recover from his boyhood in provincial West Texas.
I liked the first half of the film better than the second half, which trends in the direction of plot absurdity, as two characters enter a bar with guns, and one character threatens to set fire to himself.
With its absence of background music, its exaggerated acting (over the top at times), its indoor sets, and absence of scene transitions at times, "Sordid Lives" feels very much like a TV sitcom. The costumes are colorful and charmingly tacky. Cinematography is conventional. Olivia Newton-John sings a couple of gospel hymns. But I could have wished for more country/western music.
If the film has one overall weakness I would say that it is its flamboyance. Characters, dialogue, acting and plot tend to be overstated; there's almost no subtlety. It's like they were trying a little too hard.
Still, the down-home humor renders lots of laughs for viewers. And underneath all the hubbub, these characters have genuine heart and soul. "Sordid Lives", ultimately, is a film whose theme is love and acceptance.
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