By Marc Glassman
October 21, 2011
Abe Sylvia, director and writer
Starring Juno Temple (Danielle), Jeremy Dozier (Clarke), Milla Jovovich (Sue-Ann), Mary Steenburgen (Peggy), Dwight Yoakam (Joseph), William H. Macy (Ray), Tim McGraw (Danny)
There’s supposed to be something liberating in watching trash. All of your inhibitions–your critical apparatus–should be discarded if things work well. Suddenly, you’re encouraged to enjoy things for what they are, not what authority figures want them to be.
While that’s all good in theory, anyone who manufactures pop trash these days knows exactly what they’re doing. They’re not Elvis or Jerry Lee or Little Richard instinctively creating rock’n’roll. What they’re mining is our collective archive of what’s hot: girls in short skirts, hot rods, thick pink lipstick, blue jeans painted on adolescent buttocks, cigarettes, tattoos and lots of curse-words.
But when you know that all kinds of bad attitude will be pushed in your face, you’ve got to wonder: why? Is the anger justified? Dirty Girl isn’t the real thing. It’s a manufactured, decades-after-the-facts response to Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story.
Dirty Girl stars Juno Temple as Danielle, a young woman with enough capital “A” attitude to get burned at the stake in a remake of The Scarlet Letter. Her taut body looks less ready for sex than for a wrestling match. She burns with rage and can’t complete a sentence without a curse-word.
But then she gets matched up in her “loser” high school class with Clarke, an overweight, angry and very gay young man. After fights with their parents, teachers and school authorities, they steal Clarke’s dad’s car and head off down that lonely American highway.
What these two kids want is love from the parents who treat them with fear and shame. And that’s what they get after 90 minutes of mind-numbing clichés. Somehow Juno Temple is good in Dirty Girl–her survival as a creditable actor is the biggest surprise in the film.