FILM REVIEW ***
Leave Your Parents at Home
Written by Margaret Cho, directed by Lorene Machado
Starring Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho, America’s favorite fag hag, is back with Notorious C.H.O., a follow-up to her successful and side-splittingly hilarious, I’m The One That I Want. Like One That I Want, Notorious C.H.O. is simply a filming of the live show that she has been touring the country with for the past months, but although Cho includes her trademark raunchy, no-subject-is-taboo humor and her natural charisma, the movie doesn’t come near matching the brilliance of the original. Still, the movie is definitely worth seeing if you’ve already seen and enjoyed the first one.
There are many reasons that the movie falls short of the first. Dressed in an oddly Howdy Doody-esque checkered shirt, Cho seems a little subdued in her delivery, which may have been happenstance, or due to the fact the movie was taped in Seattle. One That I Want was taped in San Francisco, Cho’s hometown, in front of a crowd that she was clearly comfortable with, and in Notorious C.H.O. Cho lacks her usual sparkling, slyly naughty delivery.
In addition, One That I Want was structured tightly in that it began with traditional comic shtick but quickly moved into a narrative concerning Cho’s ill-fated sitcom All-American Girl and her subsequently painful fall and bout with depression and alcoholism. This long story arc provided a framework in which Cho could delve into subjects ranging from “Asian glow” to being propositioned by a producer. Without a story arc, Notorious C.H.O. tends to meander from subject to subject despite Cho’s smooth, effortlessly controlled delivery.
The movie also includes filler in the form of a brief cartoon segment written by Cho about how blacks and Asians should get along, brief quotes from the audience entering the theater, many giving bad deliveries of lines from Cho’s first movie, and a short interview segment with Cho’s parents, undoubtedly calculated to induce the audience’s “Awww” reflex. All of this proves to be unnecessary padding for what is already an entertaining movie.
Despite these faults, Notorious makes for a good 95 minutes of Margaret Cho’s trademark humor, although with rather more explicit subject matter than usual, impossible as that may sound. Familiar subjects are included, such as playful jabs at Asian stereotypes, caricatured depictions of gay men, straight men, and valley girls, and a warm, fuzzy segment near the end dutifully devoted to self-esteem issues and prejudice, along with new topics, such as getting a colonic (a segment which gets old a little too quickly), finding her G-spot, and fisting (which, she points out, is not a new type of workout like Tae-Bo).
Among the highlights is a surprisingly entertaining extended segment on menstruation in which she imagines what it would be like if straight men had periods and quips, “They’d use old socks ... Every bachelor’s apartment would look like a crime scene.” Cho also shares her latest experiences in sexual experimentation and points out the eerie connection between people who like Star Trek, the Renaissance Fair, and S&M Clubs.
The show also includes an oddly moving bit about two drag queens she was friends with in high school in which she successfully conveys her admiration for high school drag queens (who she points out have to put up with more prejudice than any other group of teenagers), who have passed away, but who she likes to believe watch over her as her “guardian drag queens.”
Clearly Cho’s choice in subject matter is not for the faint of heart or the less than liberal, but the movie is ideal for anyone who wants a comparable alternative to dishing it out with her or his friends at a crowded bar late at night.