Sordid Lives:

I love this movie! If anyone wants to know what it's like to live or grow up in the South, then this is the movie for you...The characters are straight out of my family tree. Leslie Jordan is over the top with his impersonation of Tammy Wynette

Review from Box Office Mojo

Standing By Those Sordid Lives
by Scott Holleran

“Watching writer and director Del Shores's Bible Belt parody, Sordid Lives, is like driving through the boondocks, finding only honky tonk radio and listening to one of those raunchy tunes; it's weird, it's funny and you find yourself humming along.

Based on the Shores play of the same name, Sordid Lives sounds like a typical gay-themed movie—and a very bad one at that: an old woman's funeral brings a small Texas town to its knees, as the town's characters rehash their trashy lives one by one, including a man with wooden legs, a tattooed barfly, a transvestite in an insane asylum and more two-timing than the Texas two-step.
Given the plot, one might expect a freak show. Not so with these sordid lives. Writer Del Shores knows how to weave his satire with skillfully subtle touches of humanity. The result is a rollicking good time.

Though it's safe to say those laughing loudest are probably from the Bible Belt, grew up gay or have a pair of nylons tucked into their drawer between their boxers and briefs, people on Main Street are more likely to belly laugh than those on Castro Street. The crafty, if bawdy, humor pokes fun at everyone, including gays, which may be why Sordid Lives has hardly been a huge hit among those whose possessions are plastered with pink triangles.

The laughs begin slowly, as Sissy, (a scene-stealing Beth Grant), is talking on the phone about her recently departed mother, who died after tripping over the wooden legs of her married lover (Beau Bridges). The family is in serious disrepute—and Sissy's moralistic sister, Latrelle (Bonnie Bedelia in her best role since Presumed Innocent) is filled with shame. Another sister, bosomy LaVonda, (Ann Walker), who relishes the salacious nature of her mother's death, baits prissy Latrelle with sore family subjects.

Twin family wounds form the film's lightweight theme that being a good person means doing one's best under the circumstances. One sore point: the women's other sibling—a shameful secret named Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram, (Leslie Jordan, performing flawlessly), a tattered, old drag queen who plays Tammy Wynette like he's on Broadway. Brother Boy's stuck in an asylum—Shores never suggests that his transvestitism is normal—with a shrink (Rosemary Alexander) whose career depends on turning him straight. The implausible therapy sessions provide the funniest moments.

The other sore point frames the narrative. Deeply religious Latrelle's son, Ty, (Kirk Geiger), an actor who is gay, struggles with his strict upbringing, though a gay play his mother detests is truly rotten. There are more subplots in Sordid Lives than an episode of "Dynasty", including Delta Burke's wronged Noleta, Newell Alexander's bartender Wardell, and the perfect thread for Sordid Lives: Olivia Newton-John (Grease), strumming her guitar as a butch barfly named Bitsy Mae Harling.

Bitsy Mae sings the catchy title track and several other songs and gum snapping Newton-John manages to pull off the twangy ex-convict as someone Sandy from Grease might have become after she donned those skintight black pants.
By the time Newton-John sings her last note—and fans will want to hang around for the credits—people are better than one might expect and the most tired cliches manage to ring true amid the peculiar lives. The ending falls flat but it doesn't really matter: everyone gets what they deserve.

Sordid Lives is trailer trash supreme—it is destined to become a cult favorite—and, though it's been said before and with a lot less hair, these simple lessons with Texas trimmings make for a foot-stomping good time.

Despite campy performances, low production values, and enough hamming it up for a Joan Crawford film festival, something intelligible—and, ultimately, likable—comes through: that even the most sordid life can be lived honorably, and, in any case, it's better than the alternative.

DVD Notes
Mary Kay Place, Mary Steenburgen, the late country singer Tammy Wynette—each were supposed to (and did not) participate in this cult favorite, according to information on the generously equipped DVD. Creator Del Shores, taking rightful ownership of what's clearly a labor of love, makes the story of getting this made for under $500,000 interesting. Included are two of Olivia's uncut gospel songs, interviews with most of the cast and a commentary with Shores, Bedelia and many others in which everyone has a blast. Best bit: a 15-minute feature with Shores and producer Sharyn Lane, side by side, talking about rejection, missed festivals and their resolve to make a movie.”

For Mitzi...


  1. That video was hysterical -- me and my southern mama are gonna howl at that.

    Btw, I'm a friend of Scott's (from The Proverbial Line).

  2. Pleasure to meet you Amanda, Btw, you, your mama and Scott should rent the movie and have a big ole bowl of popcorn.

  3. Thank you Ayem8y that was wonderful and right up my street too! I'll be looking out for this DVD tomorrow when I go shopping. I grew up listening to Tammy Wynette as my mother is a big fan of C&W and plays nothing else except for Brenda Lee, Connie Francis and Nana Mouskouri. When I lived at home, every Saturday morning, without fail. I would wake up to the sound of Tammy singing "No Charge" then she'd turn the volume up a notch or two, which often meant my mother wanted me out of bed to do a chore. No wonder I grew up queer! Is "Brother Boy" that poisoned dwarf from Will and Grace?