Hunky Dory glimpses behind glam
Perhaps it’s not surprising that a film named after a David Bowie album manages to flaunt its own refusal to participate in the false dialectics of gay and straight. But Hunky Dory doesn’t dally in conversations about sexuality. Rather, this film takes a stand in the rare dignity afforded its characters (a drag queen, a sex worker, a child) as it gracefully navigates their quandary, allowing them to simply be.
When his son George is dropped on his doorstep, and his ex-girlfriend cannot be reached, failed glam-rocker Sidney is forced to become the dad he has never been. Being responsible for someone else means he must be responsible for himself. It’s an unusual coming-of-age story, for father and son alike. Having his son around means Sidney cannot continue the rock-star ruse he has carefully (or carelessly) cultivated, and so must reveal his true self to his son, to himself, to everyone.
There are plenty of opportunities for things to turn cliché, or at the very least, sensationalized. But this film resists those temptations at all turns. In the deft hands of first-time feature filmmaker Michael Curtis Johnson, nearly every scene crackles with risk—surprising us, bursting with subtle explosions like a smoldering fire ripped by the wind. A rare commodity in independent filmmaking, these are scenes designed to enthrall with twists and turns, rather than shock and awe. And the actors deliver, leaving the viewer craving more of that spark.
This is exactly the kind of indie film I want to see. It’s not monotone mumblecore, nor is it an iconoclastic jab at Hollywood. It’s just plain classic filmmaking, reminiscent of Mike Nichols or Eric Rohmer. And if someone asked me to name a great film about acceptance, Hunky Dory would be the first on my tongue.