Margaret Cho returns with her trademark raunchy humor, unapologetic trashiness and championing of marginalized voices in "Revolution." Filmed last year in Los Angeles during the standup comic's most recent tour, latest outing displays many of the same strengths and weaknesses as its predecessors. But, while it's frequently hilarious, the material feels choppier and less honed as a narrative than Cho's first and best film, "I'm the One That I Want." Nonetheless, devotees will look for it first at gay fests, then on Sundance Channel, premiering June 19, and as a Wellspring DVD/video release in August.

Margaret Cho returns with her trademark raunchy humor, unapologetic trashiness and championing of marginalized voices in “Revolution.” Filmed last year in Los Angeles during the standup comic’s most recent tour, latest outing displays many of the same strengths and weaknesses as its predecessors. But, while it’s frequently hilarious, the material feels choppier and less honed as a narrative than Cho’s first and best film, “I’m the One That I Want.” Nonetheless, devotees will look for it first at gay fests, then on Sundance Channel, premiering June 19, and as a Wellspring DVD/video release in August.

A self-described slutty fag hag who prides herself on her “inappropriateness,” Korean-American Cho here advocates a revolution of vocal visibility for anyone relegated to the fringes, from Asians and people of color to the gay and lesbian community to women in general. Equating homophobia with racism, she holds up ethnicity and sexuality as defining elements of who people are, advocating against those elements being homogenized into polite social acceptability.

Confessing to being a problem dinner guest, Cho outlines how her tendency to divulge everything from intimate sexual episodes to bodily functions unfailingly prompts cries of “Too much information!” or “Don’t go there!” Trouble is, as Cho explains, “I live there.” And while her politicized message comes as a somewhat automatic rallying cry rather than evolving organically from the material, Cho’s impassioned urging for minority Americans to get in people’s faces and use their voice to fight a cultural war inevitably will connect with her target audience.

As a political credo, this has a decidedly lite feel, however, as do Cho’s opening remarks about the war in Iraq as a Bush-Hussein penis contest. The comic’s riff on Condoleezza Rice trying to teach the president the correct pronunciation of the word “nuclear” is fiercely funny, but her thoughts on the climate of paranoia that curbs criticism of the government or its war campaign feel under-articulated.

Cho is on more fertile ground with personal revelations, despite revisiting familiar subjects from her previous films. She reflects amusingly on bartering for sex in long-term relationships, and on the — literally — explosive miracle of childbirth despite herself being a staunch non-breeder (“I ovulate sand”). Running jokes on Bangkok sex shows feel like a too-easy target that’s far less interestingly explored than in the late Spalding Gray’s peerless monologue on the subject in “Swimming to Cambodia.” But this segues to vintage Cho terrain about Asian stereotypes.

Lamenting that she’ll never be in a Merchant Ivory film unless she’s laying on her side smoking opium, Cho rants on the limited role choices for Asian actors who don’t want to play manicurists or pissed-off liquor store owners. One of the funniest segs is her rendition, as a homegirl, of “Memoirs of a Geisha,” recapping the elaborate makeup and costuming process needed to spend the rest of the day “being a ho.”

The shortage of Asian images in popular culture also leads to discussion of the lack of real women above size 0 and from there, to the mutilation of women through lyposuction, botox, breast implants and eating disorders. Despite the retread aspect of some of this material, Cho’s thoughts on dieting yield perhaps the film’s biggest laughs regarding the digestive effects of persimmons.

However, her digs at the tyranny of petite sizing (“I’m going to dance on the grave of Dr. Atkins with two big loaves of bread”) make it seem odd there’s no mention of the fact Cho appears radically slimmed down.

Cho’s talent for mimicry is as sharp as ever, though fans may feel cheated that her much-loved impersonation of her mother is featured only in passing here. And while there are amusing bits about why gay children are preferable to straight ones, the show generally is less gaycentric than either “I’m the One That I Want” or “Notorious C.H.O.” Given the performer’s deep ties to the gay community, the absence of any mention of the gay marriage issue inevitably dates the material.

Returning director Lorene Machado orchestrates the multiple-camera coverage with plenty of variation. Cho holds centerstage at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater against a simple red velvet backdrop, at first outfitted as some kind of glam Asian princess before tearing off her headdress and wig to reveal pigtails. Opening act Bruce Daniels appears briefly at the start of the film in addition to the now customary footage of fans arriving for the show, this time reflecting on the meaning of “revolution.”

Revolution

Production

A Cho Taussig production. Produced by Lorene Machado. Executive producers, Margaret Cho, Karen Taussig. Directed by Lorene Machado. Written by Margaret Cho.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Kirk Miller; editor, Machado; music, Sophie B. Hawkins; line producer, Dennis Sugasawara; field producers, Suzanne Ali, Nisha Ganatra. Reviewed on videocassette, New York, June 5, 2004. (In NewFest: New York Lesbian & Gay and San Francisco Lesbian & Gay film festivals.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Margaret Cho, Bruce Daniels.
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