Includes: I'm The One That I Want, Notorious C.H.O. and Margaret Cho: Revolution
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I'm the One That I Want
This concert film becomes gripping, moving, and triumphantly funny when Margaret Cho stops with the "fag-hag" jokes and gets real in recounting her ill-fated sitcom and its devastating effects on her mental and physical well-being. In the spirit of Richard Pryor talking about his infamous freebasing accident in Live on the Sunset Strip and Julia Sweeney discussing caring for her cancer-stricken brother in God Said, "HA!", Cho's account of her ill-conceived 1994 ABC sitcom All American Girl is victorious, a "you go, girl" call to empowerment. Her happiness at finding mainstream acceptance was short-lived when the network expressed concerns about her weight. A desperately insecure Cho proceeded to lose 30 pounds in a month and wound up in the hospital with kidney failure. Even more humiliating was the special consultant hired to instruct her how to appear "more Asian." Cho recalls receiving a phone call after the show's premiere from an enraged Quentin Tarantino, her then-boyfriend, who screamed at her, "They took your voice!" The capper was when her show was cancelled to make room for The Drew Carey Show ("Because he's so thin," Cho asides). Drink, drugs, and promiscuous sex followed, until Cho gave herself a wake-up call. "I'm not going to die because I failed as someone else," she proclaims. "I'm going to succeed as myself." This is the one Cho's legion of devoted fans want. More sensitive viewers are advised to fast-forward through the raunchier bits.
Margaret Cho is an NC-17 woman in a PG-13 world. Very, very little can be quoted from this concert film, as can be expected from a woman who, in the film's empowering conclusion, sounds the rallying cry to live "without restraint." Leave it to Cho to reference September 11 with a joke that is at once profane and respectful. Like Richard Pryor, the Korean-American outlaw comedian has found her niche with concert films that allow her the freedom to be her "actual self." She riffs unabashedly about relationships gone sour and relates her experiences as a sexual Captain Kirk, boldly going where she has never gone before. Notorious, yes, but not as accessible for the uninitiated as her last concert film, I'm the One That I Want, which recounted the rise and fall of her ill-fated sitcom. The faithful, though, won't pass up the chance for a private audience with the diva of the disenfranchised.
Margaret Cho does not suffer well the by-now-clichéd expression, "Don't go there." As Cho remarks near the end of her characteristically passionate one-woman show, "I live there. I bought a house there." "There" for Margaret Cho is graphic descriptions of sexual acts, gay and straight, and bodily functions, impersonating a Bangkok sex-show barker, and other matters addressed in her singular frank and explicit style. Two hysterical rants that can be printed here involve being served an Asian Chicken Salad and all the reasons she will never be cast in a period film. Revolution is more fitfully paced than her previous concert films, but she saves the best, and her most righteous anger, for last, when she addresses negative body image, racism, and homophobia. Here, she drops the attitude and gets real. She may be preaching to the converted (a Cho audience is nothing but idolatry), but it is a powerful sermon. Viva Cho! --Donald Liebenson
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