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Fox Lorber presents
Margaret Cho: I'm the One That I Want (2000)

"Do you know anybody who's straight, anyway? It's so weird, so subversive, to be straight!"
- Margaret Cho

Review By: Dale Dobson  
Published: November 05, 2001

Stars: Margaret Cho
Director: Lionel Coleman

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong language and sexual themes)
Run Time: 01h:35m:39s
Release Date: October 09, 2001
UPC: 720917314624
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A+B-B+ B-

DVD Review

Stand-up comic and actress Margaret Cho developed a new show in the late 1990s entitled I'm the One That I Want, a frank, personal and outrageously funny discussion of her life and its deterioration following the failure of her network sitcom, All-American Girl. Refined during an extended run in New York, the show was filmed in 1999 at San Francisco's Warfield theatre. The concert movie was very well-received, and earned $1 million at the box office with only ten prints in circulation.

Cho writes all of her own material, and much of it is extremely personal in nature, raunchy and honest without ever seeming crude or forced. Her routines touch on matters of sexual orientation, gay and straight relationships, and her Korean roots. She does a devastating, affectionate impression of her own mother, uniquely Asian yet universally recognizable, and the effect is subtly heightened here by her parents' first-time presence in the audience. Her popular "Ass Master" routine, derived from her mother's handling of the gay porn stocked in her parents' San Francisco bookstore, is a classic, thoroughly human and completely hilarious. Cho also makes jokes about fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, lesbian cruises, straight porn and her own life as a "fag hag," using character voices and elaborate, explicit pantomime to drive each punchline home. There's a fundamental reality to all of the characters she invokes, from Gwen the hospital attendant to ex-boyfriend Quentin Tarantino.

Cho also discusses her own experiences with racism, alcoholism and career stress to humorous and deeply touching effect. The pressures of her network show nearly destroyed heróforced to lose weight in order to play herself, she suffered kidney failure and had to undergo emergency surgery during filming of the pilot; subjected to the advice of an "Asian consultant" lest she be perceived as "too Asian" or "not Asian enough" by various interest groups, she lost her unique voice. The sitcom's failure sent her into a tailspin of alcoholism and promiscuity, and Cho's material here is therapy of a sort for all of usóspeaking out about her experience makes her stronger and wiser, and the audience is with her all the way. This isn't "confession comedy" in the post-traumatic vein of Brett Butler or Richard Pryor; it's autobiography, raw and unadorned, tinged with sardonic wit and charged with poignancy. Great comedy often comes out of personal pain, and Cho takes the extraordinary step of detailing the pain itself, while still finding considerable humor in it. Even when she makes fun of her youthful self, we laugh with her, never at her, and the personal strength and sheer talent that have helped Cho succeed as a female, Asian comedian of ambiguous sexuality remain inspirational and marvelous to behold.

Director Lionel Coleman and producer Lorene Machado approached I'm the One That I Want from a "classical" perspective, inspired by such great concert films as Richard Pryor Live at the Sunset Strip. Eschewing HBO flash and audience cutaways, the camera stays on Margaret Cho throughoutóevery gesture and expression is captured, and her deliberate, exquisite timing is allowed to play in "real time." Cho's active use of the stage never confounds the cinematography, and the film is a permanent record of an amazing performance.

There are concert films, and then there are concert films. I've never laughed so hard or been so moved by a "live in concert" comedy movie. A must-see for humans of any race, creed or sexual orientation.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Fox Lorber presents I'm the One That I Want in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The nonanamorphic letterboxed transfer has a fairly soft look about it, and there's some digital compression noise in background areas of a few scenes. But the 35mm source print is clean, the film's black/red color palette is accurately represented with good contrast and balance, and the dual-layer disc provides a very watchable presentation. Fox Lorber still has some quality issues to address, but this disc is a step in the right direction.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The DVD features the film's original monaural soundtrack, presented in Dolby 2.0 format for ProLogic-decoding to the center channel. The concert film was recorded live using Dolby SR technology, and the end result is a solid, noise-free rendition of Cho's material. The mono soundtrack is in keeping with the filmmakers' intentionsórather than surrounding the viewer with audience reaction and "concert hall" ambience, it keeps attention focused on Ms. Cho. It's a simple, clean and serviceable soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by producer Lorene Machado, executive producer Karen Taussig, and literary agent Christopher Schelling
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:16m:35s

Extra Extras:
  1. Testimonials
  2. Weblinks
Extras Review: The Margaret Cho: I'm the One That I Want DVD features 28 text-menu chapter stops and a number of worthwhile supplements:

Behind-the-Scenes Featurette:

"Featurette" is not the proper term for this substantial 40-minute documentary about the making of the film and the development of the stage act on which it was based. Margaret Cho discusses the more mature tone and substance of this show as compared to her earlier stand-up work, and the additional stress she felt during the actual shooting. Production staff interviews and behind-the-scenes footage convey the challenges of the projectótwo performances were filmed with 4 (slightly problematic) 35mm cameras in front of a live, paying audience, followed by a compressed post-production schedule due to budget issues. It's not promotional "fluff" at allótechnical and performance issues are given equal weight, and this documentary is a valuable addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer:

The film's simple 2-minute theatrical trailer is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed format, mixing brief, relatively "clean" clips from the film with critical raves and audience reaction footage.


Margaret Cho's filmography through the year 2000, listed on a single screen page.


DVD-ROM links, as well as a screen display for stand-alone DVD players, providing connections to the Winstar Video and Margaret Cho websites.


This 5-minute compilation features additional audience reaction footage (some of which is seen in the theatrical trailer and the documentary), as well as video clips from Cho's performances, public appearances, and awards acceptance speeches. Many of the clips provide examples of Cho's dedication to the gay community, as she speaks with passion and eloquence to organizations including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Audio Commentary:

Producer Lorene Machado, Executive Producer (and Cho's manager) Karen Taussig, and literary agent Christopher Schelling contribute a running commentary. The three were recorded together; they can't really add anything to Margaret Cho's brilliant performance, but they do provide some insight into the film's genesis, their work with Cho, and the film's production and enthusiastic reception. Technical issues dominate the discussion, and the track makes an interesting "concert film school" for anyone interested in the genre. It's a fairly dry commentary overall, but it has its moments.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Margaret Cho: I'm the One That I Want is a brilliant concert film in the classic mold, presenting Ms. Cho at her best: outrageously frank, painfully honest and consistently funny. Fox Lorber's DVD features a decent (if nonanamorphic) transfer and substantial supplements. Recommended.


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