I’m trying something new with this review. I’m linking it to the trailer, because why explain a movie’s plot when a trailer (like a lot of trailers these days) tells you everything you need to know about the movie?
Dirty Girl (2010) stars the likable Juno Temple in the title role, and “introduces” Jeremy Dozier as the “dirty” girl’s gay friend/road trip companion ((I hate when movies use the term “introducing”; it implies that there is some high level of acting skill that demands we know that this is their first role in a major film. It is rarely warranted, and definitely is not necessary for this actor or this role). It’s directed and written by Abe Sylvia, who has not really directed or written much of anything else (directed one episode of Nurse Jackie and written several more episodes of that series). I’m getting really tired of watching movies that are mediocre at best and discovering that they’re directed by a first-timer. It’s like going to a baseball stadium hoping to see the Yankees and ending up seeing the Toledo Mudhens. But anyhow, like the previously reviewed Stand Up Guys, it left me wondering how this first timer could pull in established actors such as William H Macy, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, and Milla Jovovich in supporting roles.
The first half of the trailer basically nicely summarizes the first 30 minutes of the film, with the added benefit of providing the viewer of the trailer the same emotional involvement in its characters in a minute and 20 seconds as watching the film. So according to my math, you can save yourself 28 minutes of your life by watching the first half of the trailer instead of the first 30 minutes of the movie. As far as the remaining hour of the film, the trailer basically gives you a good idea of what happens in the end, but doesn’t give away too much. Perhaps that is due to the setup being more promising than what the film can deliver.
Dirty Girl does have its share of supporters here on the Interwebs. I would suspect most of those people don’t really consider themselves critics, and also give into the charm and faux sentimentality of the film. Reading reviews and message boards, however, there are people who attempt to defend the film’s mistakes and/or give the director too much credit. Like the soon to be reviewed Room 237, you shouldn’t read more into the film than is there, especially in the case of Dirty Girl, which was not directed by a Kubrick level talent. The first critique of the critics (this film has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes) is that they didn’t understand why it was called Dirty Girl. Supporters say the title is ironic, that she’s not really a dirty girl at heart. Reading some reviews on RT, there are some critics who don’t get that. But besides a brief introduction at the beginning, where Temple is having sex in a car in the school parking lot, and she asks the teacher an inappropriate question during an abstinence talk (wow, what an original way to show that these townspeople are so repressed!), we don’t really get the feeling that she’s much of the dirty girl that the film wants her to be. There’s literally 3 minutes of the “Dirty Girl” before that concept is almost completely abandoned by the film. Her supposed reputation has little to do with the film besides provide her a way to meet her gay outcast friend and road trip companion.
The other big topic of discussion surrounding this film concerns the setting and anachronisms involving the hairstyles, music and clothing in the film. The film clearly states that it takes place in 1987, starting in Norman, Oklahoma. Yet the Farrah Fawcett style hairdos and fashion on display scream late 70s. One person on IMDB argued that this was a deliberate choice by the director, as a way to indicate that the people’s attitudes and beliefs were old fashioned and out of date. Puh-lease. If that were true, why are the heroes of the film, Danielle (Temple) and Clarke (Dozier) similarly dressed? (And why do they listen to schmaltzy ’80’s pop instead of something edgy for 1987?) Since they are not backwards in their thinking, they should not be backwards in their fashion, but they are. You could argue that fashion takes longer to get to certain parts of the country (I had a laugh in Ohio in 2001 watching the news reporting on this “new” trend of “sagging” jeans- apparently Ohio had slept through the ’90’s), but not that long. Especially since Norman is a college town. Nope, it’s just pure laziness on the director’s part.
The wardrobe choices for the film point toward the larger problem with the film- despite the cast being up to the task of making this mediocrity watchable, everything feels false, slightly off, and borrowed from other movies. A third character, a male stripper they pick up on the road, seems to come from another movie. He’s in it for maybe ten minutes, but you think he’s going to be someone of importance. I guess he was just there to help with Clarke’s sexual awakening, because I’m sure the director saw something like that in other movie somewhere, and figure he needed that in his film. The stripper character is less than one dimensional. Being a road trip, of course at one point they run out of money, and Danielle starts to strip for money at a bar. But only after she starts does Clarke realize it’s a gay bar, and HE strips for money! Boring! So unimaginative. It’s labeled as a comedy and drama on IMDB, but the only time I laughed was at a throwaway line about going to the beach when they get to Fresno. Her search for her father ends predictably and quickly. The one point where I thought there might have been something different and interesting about the film is when Danielle’s mother is repressed by Mormonism rather than some non-descript fundamentalist Christian religion or Catholicism. But that angle is not explored beyond some lame jokes.
You have a few days if you want to watch this anyways if it still sounds good to you.
My Netflix rating: 2 out of 5
My IMDB rating: 5 out of 10