Del Shores’ Sordid Lives has had quite a life. It started out a play, before becoming a movie in 2000. The film quickly developed a cult following and spawned a prequel TV series in 2008. Now it’s gotten a sequel. While the likes of Olivia Newton John, Beth Grant and Beau Bridges from the original film don’t return, Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, Lorna Scott, Rosemary Alexander and others all return for this new visit to Winters, Texas, where the people are still a little nuts, even if some of them have softened over time.
It’s 2015, and Ty (Kirk Geiger), who was coming to terms with his sexuality in the first film, is now legally married to a man. His mother, Latrelle (Bedelia), is still living in Winters, but isn’t quite as difficult a person as she once was, although she’s still got an edge when pushed. However, when she discovers she’s going to become a grandmother, she realises perhaps she’s still got a bit of a journey to go on to really open up her heart.
There’s also Latrelle’s sisters, the chain-smoking Sissy (Dale Dickey), and LaVonda (Ann Walker), who’s flirting with love. That’s not to forget their other sibling, Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan), who’s out of the mental institution but still plagued by visions of the psychiatrist who tried to turn him straight. He’s working on a new drag act where he’ll play three queens of country music. However, he then gets fired and ends up on a road trip with a serial killer.
However, there is a problem in Winters. The US Supreme Court has just decreed that same sex marriage should be legal across the United States, but the new Baptist preacher in Winters has decided to organise an ‘anti-equality’ drive, in the hope of ensuring that no gay marriage will ever happen in their county. Some of the residents of the town are happy to back this prejudice and start to spew bible verses to support it, but others come together to try and put a stop to the bigotry.
The joy of Sordid Lives has always been allowing a bunch of brassy female characters let rip, and often insult one another in wonderful ways. That’s certainly on show here, as while some of the familiar characters are played by new people , they’ve all been given good replacements, who can chew on the lines as they put one another in their place. For chunks of the movie, the plot verges on being irrelevant, with the film instead revelling in letting the female characters do their stuff. The characters aren’t quite white trash, but they’re not too far off.
Indeed, early on I wondered whether the initial side-lining of plot was going to be a problem, as the movie starts in a way where it assumes you know who all these people are already from the earlier film and TV series. So while you’ll be enjoying their dialogue, if you’re new to the Sordid world you might feel a little lost. That’s only true for the first 15 minutes, as by that point you should have worked out who everyone is and how they relate to one another.
After that, the pace starts picking up and there’s plenty to keep a smile on your face. There are moments when its pro-gay marriage stance threatens to become a little preachy – at one point there’s literally a sermon about it – but it’s saved by the fire and righteous anger behind the words, and the fact that the likes of Bonnie Bedelia and Dale Dickey give it real heart.
There’s also plenty of entertainment to be had from the almost surreal adventures of Brother Boy. As he’s done many times before, Leslie Jordan takes a character who should be a cartoon and turns him into a real person. There’s a genuine sense of sadness about how aging affects people and how past homophobia still has ramifications. It ensures that as the story of Brother Boy and a necrophiliac serial killer gets ever more absurd, there’s an odd heart and sweetness to it.
One thing you may be wondering when you watch the film, is why the word ‘wedding’ is in the title, as it takes a while to find out who might be getting married. That’s part of the fun though, as the film knows that audiences will be wondering who’s getting hitched. When it does get round to it, viewers should be pleased, and should also enjoy the cameo from the person conducting the nuptials.
Overall Verdict: Much of A Very Sordid Wedding is silly and some of it’s bizarre, but it’s kept together by its sense of fun, some great female character actresses and a heart that believes that the world can change for the better if people stand up for what they believe. Fans of the original should be very happy, and newbies should be entertained too.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac