“She’s probably kidnapped by sex fiends.”
Those fans of cult director John Waters who suspected that he was mellowing and becoming remotely respectable can think again. John Waters’ new film A Dirty Shame proves that Waters is still producing Trash Cinema. Trash film fans will be delighted to know that A Dirty Shame takes us back to this director’s pre-Polyester days.
Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman) and hubbie Vaughn (Chris Isaak) live on Hartford Street in Baltimore. They have a daughter, Caprice (Selma Blair)–also known as exotic dancer Ursula Udders–a hot favourite at the local biker bar. The Stickles form the perfect dysfunctional Waters family. Caprice is under house arrest for numerous incidents of public indecency, but her dad tells her that “the government wants you to stay inside for a while,” and “you’re too pretty to go out.” When the film begins, Sylvia brushes off Vaughn’s advances and hurries off to work at the local shop owned by her mother, Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd). On the drive there, Sylvia suffers a head injury, and she meets Guru Ray Ray (Johnny Knoxville). Ray Ray–a self-described “sexual healer” turns Sylvia into a sex addict.
Soon Sylvia is engaged in sexual mayhem–molesting anyone who comes in her path, stealing lingerie from bins, and even performing an erotic dance at the local old people’s home. Ray Ray and his band of uninhibited followers anticipate a day of carnal rapture, and these ‘enlightened’ few invade the neighbourhood and a Sex Addicts meeting looking for new converts. The normal citizens (“Neuters”) of Hartford Road hold a Decency Rally and form Neuter Resistance.
There’s a message in the film that is evident in the Neuter Resistance Platform. Phrases such as: “tolerance went too far” accompanied by the idea that society is now more permissive than the 60s, indicate the film’s less-than-sly knock at moral righteousness. This film is a raunchy riot from beginning to end, and it certainly isn’t for the meek or the Neuters. As with any John Waters film, don’t expect subtle solutions. This is over-the-top sexual anarchy. Nothing more. Nothing less. Die-hard John Waters’ fans will be happy to be back with familiar filth. Everyone else … you’re on your own ….
The film’s soundtrack is packed with appropriate Filth Music. Special mention of Patty Hearst who plays Sex Addict, Paige, and Mink Stole as a particularly righteous Neuter. Special features (and I watched the NC-17 version) include: commentaries, “All the Dirt on A Dirty Shame” (a behind-the-scenes look at the film), a deleted scene, and the trailer. Welcome back to the gutter, John. We knew you’d never left us.