Written by: Margaret Cho
Directed by: Lionel Coleman
Starring: Margaret Cho
- Commentary with producer Lorene Machado
- Behind-the-scenes Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
Released by: Winstar
My Advice: Rent it.
Margaret Cho was an up-and-coming comedienne with the usual problems of low self-esteem and need for acceptance. When she, like many other successful stand-up comics, got her own show, she was on top of the world. But she felt the responsibility of being the first Asian-American woman to star in her own sitcom. So she let the suits at the network give her notes about her being overweight–such as how her face was too full. She never realized that she was “this giant face taking over America”. She had to deal with people saying she wasn’t Asian enough. The network even hired an Asian consultant who advised Margaret Cho on how to be Asian. So after putting up with all the static from network executives, focus groups, and Asian interest groups, her show was cancelled. Suffering this massive rejection, Margaret descended into alcoholism to the point of being hung over in bed and debating whether to pee in the bed or get up to the bathroom. She got herself clean and sober and did what most comics do, turn her painful experiences into comedy. This forms the basis for her one-woman show I’m the One That I Want.
[ad#longpost]By the time this movie was made, Cho had performed her show many times. But you never feel she is only going through the motions; her performance is confident and energetic. Admittedly, the absurdity of Hollywood can be an easy target, but Cho rips expertly into how networks are desperate to please everybody for ratings…and how she got caught up in it. Her whole message is that you really have to like yourself and not let people’s opinions affect your judgment. Don’t worry, it’s still very funny and doesn’t get preachy. She also mixes in several tangents on the importance of “fag-hags” in gay culture, “Slut Pride”, and her signature piece, the “Ass Master”. There are some rough spots, though. For instance, while she was in the hospital, Cho had a woman come up to her and say “Hi, my name is Gwen, I’m here to wash your vagina.” Cho goes off on this for about six minutes. A little of that goes a long way. But all in all, it’s funny and moving without getting syrupy.
The extras are good as well. The behind-the scenes featurette actually shows how the process of taking Cho’s act from stage to screen was done. It talks about the technical problems with having cameras in the Waverly Theater in San Francisco and having those cameras break down during the performance. It also shows how Cho reached out to various Asian and gay/lesbian groups to promote her film and how she went so far as to collect tickets from customers during a showing. It’s so refreshing to see a featurette that is informative instead of simply self-congratulatory.
The commentary does go over some of the same territory as the featurette, but we get extra detail like how nervous Cho was to do her impersonation of her mother with her actual mother in the audience. But they also go on and on about how this movie affected so many people–which goes beyond acknowledgment and into self-congratulation. It’s also like they’re making up for the lack of this annoyance in the featurette.
If you want some laughs with a little heart mixed in, then this should definitely be on your rental list.