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Dirty Girl (2010)
DVD Released: 1/17/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/18/2012
This is an assumption, but I would have to guess that when a director makes a movie, they plan on making it special and putting their own personal stamp on it. This should be especially true when they are making a film in a genre or sub-genre which has a long track record. Which brings me to my next point (seemingly out of nowhere) -- some genres have been done so much that we need to put a moratorium on them. One of my first nominees would be the road movie. These have been around since the time of Hope & Crosby and they keep coming. Is there anything new to be mined here? Apparently Writer/Director Abe Sylvia thought that so, as he brings us Dirty Girl.
Taking place in 1987, Juno Temple stars in Dirty Girl as Danielle, a young hellion who spends her days at school attempting to hook up with as many boys as possible. This has hurt her schoolwork and she’s placed in remedial classes. There, she is given a faux parenting assignment -- in which she must care for a sack of flour -- and she’s partnered with Clarke (Jeremy Dozier), an overweight boy who is also a closeted homosexual. Danielle lives with her mother, Sue-Ann (Milla Jovovich), but they don’t get along, and Danielle doesn’t like her mom’s new boyfriend (William H. Macy). Clarke lives with his mother, Peggy (Mary Steenburgen), and father, Joseph (Dwight Yoakam). Joseph hates Clarke’s behavior and is abusive towards him. Sue-Ann leaves Danielle home alone for the weekend, while at the same time Joseph lashes out at Clarke. The two teens decide to hit the road to California to find Danielle’s biological father. Along the way, they learn more about each other and themselves.
There can often be a gap between what a movie wants to be and what it is. Dirty Girl wants to be a fun, but introspective drama-cum-road movie which teaches lessons about acceptance and looking inward to find yourself. Danielle is a brat, but she’s really just looking for love and ultimately, a father figure. She is abrasive and dresses provocatively. Clarke is the opposite. He keeps to himself at school and often has is hood up. He is forced to hide his true nature from the world, for fear that his parents will send him to military school. With Danielle, Clarke is able to talk openly about who he is and what he wants from life. Danielle, on the other hand, begins to let her guard down and softens around the edges.
Clearly, Abe Sylvia put some thought into the film’s themes, and he put together a great cast, but he forgot to focus on the story and characters. First of all, Danielle and Clarke aren’t very likable, even after they have their epiphanies. As noted above, Danielle is abrasive and Clarke is cut off, and these qualities don’t draw the viewer in. Ironically, in a movie which is about discovering one’s individuality, all of the characters are stereotypes, even down to the most minor characters, and thus it’s hard to find them believable. The characters also lack in detail. Did Danielle do well in school before her wild streak began? Why is Clarke in remedial classes? The story doesn’t help much. The first half of the film is a depressing domestic drama which then morphs into aThelma and Louise-esque road movie. This part of the movie becomes incredibly cliched and every road movie plot-point (car trouble, money trouble, hitchhiker, etc.) rears its ugly head. Is this supposed to be a joke? Is Sylvia saying, “Hey, look at these two odd characters who can’t avoid the roadblocks which impair all travelers in movies?” If so, kudos to him, but I somehow doubt it.
The only positive thing about Dirty Girl is the acting, and you know that acting is good when you have strong feelings about characters. Temple loses herself in the role of Danielle (she’s probably aided by the costumes) and we immediately bristle at this wild child. Jeremy Dozier has opted to play Clarke as a person, as opposed to a stereotypical gay person. Yes, he’s flamboyant at times, but he’s also shy and hurt and this comes across. Dwight Yoakam channels his character from Slingblade, as he’s creepy, while Mary Steenburgen, who’s almost unrecognizable, is very good as a wife and mother who can never speak her mind.
Dirty Girl has some important things to say and they are things which are worth saying, but the delivery is botched. Even Sylvia’s attempt at humor with the sack of flour fall flat. Dirty Girl is a frustrating film, as we can see its point, but don’t enjoy the journey to get there. The fact that it becomes a hackneyed road movie doesn’t help. This Dirty Girl and its director deserve to be spanked.
Dirty Girl never really tells us why it takes place in 1987 on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear showing only trace amounts of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, especially the pastels, and the daytime scenes are crisp. Some of the nighttime scenes are a bit dark. The amount of artifacting is kept to a minimum. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are detailed and show good separation. The surround effects come into play during some of the scenes on the road. The music, featuring some great 80s songs, sounds very good and is nicely distributed through the speakers.
The Dirty Girl DVD is short on extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Abe Sylvia. The DVD contains four DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. These don’t introduce any new ideas, but we do get a cameo from Kevin from The Office.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long