Actors: Beau Bridges, Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John, Leslie Jordan
Director: Del Shores
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Surround Sound, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Wolfe Video
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Run Time: 111 minutes
With big personalities and an excess of somewhat pointless dialogue filling each of the scenes, all of which seem to take place indoors, it is not hard to imagine that Sordid Lives began as a stage play before it was adapted into this film. The characters are big and the plot is minimal, but the high camp value of the humor makes it easy to understand the film’s cult success. Being able to understand is not the same as to appreciate, however, and I found the endless southern ramblings to be a bit much to endure for 111-minutes.
Sordid Lives is written and directed by Del Shore, who adapted it from his own stage play with many original cast members. The storyline is extremely simplistic, following a gay
West Hollywood actor’s return to his small Texan hometown
for his grandmother’s funeral. Though this film could have focused on this
character as the protagonist, his main influence to the plot seems to be
through contrived conversations about his hometown through sequences in therapy.
One also might imagine it to be a film about the difficulties of returning to a
conservative town as an openly gay man, but there are plenty of flamboyant
family members to ruin any chance of these themes. In reality, it is the
supporting family members who end up stealing the show, mostly due to campy
Although I appreciate the significance of this film in the LGBT community, I can’t help but feel that it is also a case where less would have been more. A film about a gay actor returning to his hometown in fear that he will no longer be accepted would have been a compelling premise, but that is swept under the rug in favor of having more colorful supporting characters. One of the film’s biggest scene-stealers is Leslie Jordan in the role of the Tammy Wynette-obsessed gay uncle, who has been institutionalized for years due to his cross-dressing.
This film embodies the definition of camp, though I would not say that it is likely to be entertainment all will equally enjoy. There are some surprisingly effective performances, but the hard work of the actors is not enough to make up for a stagnant storyline. The Blu-ray release includes an all-new set of interviews with the cast and director Del Shores. Also included are the originally recorded commentary track and a new trailer. The Blu-ray disc comes with closed captions and a 5.1 surround sound audio track that is all but unnecessary for a dialogue-heavy low-budget film such as this.
Entertainment Value: 3.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4.5/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10