A Dirty Shame (2004) Directed by John Waters
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My husband is on Viagra. Every minute he wants it! I'm Viagra-vated and I'm not gonna take it anymore!—A Hartford Road Neuter
Warning: This is a review of a John Waters film. That should be enough warning. If you’re still in doubt, look him up on IMDB.com.
John Waters is a very interesting director; he has a range from the very best, to the very worst in film making. That is because he is not so much worried about the film, but about it’s effect. John Waters likes to push the envelope. He likes to shock people. Given the choice between getting a thousand dollars, and making a SUV load of Soccer moms clutch the pearls, he is going to go for the shock and awe every single time.
And this can be a good thing. He is like a fun house mirror that holds up a distorted version of ourselves. We don’t really believe we look like that, but maybe the next time we are in front of a real mirror we look with eyes a little less clouded with preconceptions.
Sometimes he hits (Hairspray, Female Trouble) sometimes he misses (Cecil B. Demented), but he is never boring (Pink Flamingos).
This time, Waters takes on sexual liberation, and fetishes.
Sylvia Stickles (Tracy Ullman) is a suburban housewife muddling through life working at her mom’s (Big Edith- Suzanne Shepherd) convenience store, playing warden to their nymphomaniacal daughter, Caprice, AKA Ursula Udders (Selma Blair) who has enhanced mammaries, each bigger than her head, and fending off the sexual advances of her devoted husband, Vaughn (Chris Isaak). Right there, you know this woman has a problem…if she can ward off Chris “Wicked Game” Isaak, there is something broken inside her.
Then a traffic accident gives her a bump on the head, and when she comes too, she discovers she is a sex addict. This is also discovered by Ray Ray (Johnny Knoxville) who is not only another sex addict, but a self styled sexual John the Baptist, awaiting the coming of the 12thapostle who will actually discover a new sexual act, releasing them into a new orgiastic nirvana. And Sylvia is that apostle.
Now, sexual addiction can only be caused by an accidental bump on the head, no rubber mallets. And Big Ethel is organizing a counter gay-lesbian-promiscuity-sexual-enjoyment movement, called Neuters. And the other eleven apostles are all members of the community, each with a different sexual fetish; there is the infantile policeman (Alan J. Wendl), the three bears, Mama, Papa, and Baby (David A. Dunham, David Moretti, and Jeffrey Auerbach) (for the uninitiated, bears are large, hairy homosexual men) Loose Linda (Jewel Orem), Randy the Rimmer (Kevin Reese), oh, the list goes on and on. And the deviants are not shy about bringing their kama sutric sacraments to the neuters of Hartford Row. Whackiness is sure to ensue.
Now, on the positive side, you get to learn what infantilism, Bears, Goldilocks, splooshing, Mysophilia, pay days and Upper Deckers, plate jobs and a host of other things you were too well brought up to ask about are. Okay, maybe that isn’t exactly a positive for some….
At anyrate, you know with Tracy Ullman in the driver’s seat, it has a good chance of being funny. Lord knows she was. And with Johnny Knoxville, you know you have a 95% chance of it being in the worst possible taste. And that one carried through. With Chris Isaak it stands a fair chance of being sexy…sadly, that one fell right through…he is neither naked, nor overly sexual. In point of fact, for all the talk about sex, and variations on the act, you never see anything. There is some nudity, brief, and not, as I mentioned earlier, Chris Isaak. (Also not Tracy Ullman, or Johnny Knoxville, and Selma Blair’s topless scene is tempered by the fact those freakish endowments are a prosthetic, so she is actually wearing more than anyone else in the scene.)
The problem here is volume. John Waters has the same delight in fetishistic perversion that your average nine year old boy has with flatulence humor. However, this movie crams in so many bizarre thrills and kinks, it often fails to be funny. There is a certain point where shocking Mink Stole just loses it’s luster. This movie manages to jade it’s audience with in the first hour, which leaves the last 30 minutes falling flat.
So, where does this John Water’s film fall? Well, it’s no Hairspray. But I guarantee you it’s memorable; some of those images are not coming out of your brain without a drill and boiling bleach.
“It's not safe out! People are shaving their crotches as we speak. There is pubic hair in the air! Everywhere!”—Marge the Neuter (Mink Stole)