del shores loves his white-trashTexas heritage, so much so that he's milking it dry. The playwright, who made a name for himself with Daddy's Dyin'... Who's Got The Will?, makes his directorial debut with Sordid Lives, another comedic look at death, betrayal and homosexuality in a dysfunctional southern clan.
When Ingram family matriarch Peggy is killed -- she tripped over her lover's (Beau Bridges) wooden legs on the way to the bathroom after a passionate tryst -- her bickering daughters (Bonnie Bedelia and Ann Walker) argue over her funeral, and especially about whether their transvestite sibling, Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan), should be released from an institution to attend the funeral. Meanwhile, Bedelia's closeted gay actor son, Ty (Kirk Geiger), talks to a therapist to decide whether he should return home for the funeral.
Shores loves loud, over-the-top dialogue. He belongs to the "lick my grits" school of writing, which is less annoying than it sounds because he spreads the language around: every character comes across like he or she walked out of a Dukes Of Hazard rerun. There are some weirdly compelling moments -- Jordan's performance as a flamingly queer cross-dresser is strangely touching -- but, conversely, Rosemary Alexander's turn as Jordan's psychiatrist is downright unkind.
That's the problem with Sordid Lives. It's frighteningly uneven, and the unfunny bits are really unfunny. In one scene, Walker and Delta Burke pull a Thelma And Louise and stick up a bar where they force Bridges to wear a black bra and kiss another man. This requisite "get even with the good ol' boys" scene is as flat as day-old ginger ale.
In Sordid Lives, the two main gay characters are trapped by their gayness. Brother Boy is physically imprisoned, and the closeted Ty is emotionally stunted. But Shores does them the service of freeing them from their bonds, and while the film may not come together as a whole, the homos, anyway, are home email@example.com
sordid lives written and directed by Del Shores, based on his play, produced by Sharyn Lane, Victoria Alonso and Max CiVon, with Kirk Geiger, Bonnie Bedelia, Ann Walker, Leslie Jordan, Delta Burke and Olivia Newton-John. 111 minutes. A Vagrant Films release. Opens Friday (January 18). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 70. Rating: NN