Losing traction in a tricky field

To Die Like a Man

on April 08, 2011 by Richard Mowe

Strictly for patient, gay-friendly audiences, this drawn-out melodrama about an ageing drag star in overstays its welcome.

Tonia (Fernando Santos), a veteran transsexual diva whose life has begun to fall to pieces in tandem with her raddled body, finds that the new kids on the block are getting younger and more competitive. Audience tastes have changed too and they want a rather different style of performance and performer.

Her son Zé Maria (Chandra Malatitch) whom Tonia fathered some years previously, has become a deserter from the Army as well as a murderer; meanwhile her junkie boyfriend Rosario (Alexander David) is pressuring her to have a sex change operation.

If that were not enough (and probably for many of the audience it will be) her silicone breast implants have poisoned her body and it looks like she will die of cancer.

Paradoxically, after living for years as a woman she faces the prospect of dying as a male. En route, there are many sideways excursions that lead nowhere in particular.

Rodrigues' third feature, which was selected to represent Portugal in for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar noms and was presented in Un Certain Regard at last year's Cannes Film Festival, shows admirable compassion for its characters but falls a long way short of the giddy heights of Pedro Almodóvar or Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

On the credit side, Fernando Santos as Tonia, resembles John Waters' star Divine with blonde wig and pouty lips, and makes a consistently affecting contribution as she strives to embrace the sexes.

Distributor: Strand Releasing
Cast: Fernando Santos, Alexander David, Gonçalo Ferreira de Almeida, Chandra Malatitch, Jenny Larrue, Cindy Scrash, Fernando Gomes and Miguel Loureiro
Director: João Pedro Rodrigues
Screenwriters: João Pedro Rodrigues and Rui Catalão
Producer: Maria João Sigalho
Genre: Drama; Portuguese-, German- and English-languages, subtitled
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 138 min.
Release date: April 8 NY


Tags: Rui Catalão, João Pedro Rodrigues, Miguel Loureiro, Fernando Gomes, Cindy Scrash, Jenny Larrue, Chandra Malatitch, Gonçalo Ferreira de Almeida, Alexander David, Fernando Santos

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