July 23, 2010

Queer Review: A Dirty Shame

John Waters' movie A Dirty Shame certainly lives up to its' directors reputation and its' title. A satirical look at our cultural views on sexual practices, fetishes and taboos, this movie pushes envelopes and many people may feel uncomfortable with the sort of material employed here.

The main character, Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ulman), starts out the movie as what some may call a prude but what the movie refers to with the term neuter. She soon receives a concussion which causes her to turn into a sex addict under the influence of Ray Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville). Ray Ray, it turns out, is the messiah like leader of a group of sexual freedom fighters, each with their own fetishes. They believe that Sylvia is the one who can lead them to the discovery of a new kind of sexual gratification.

As the description implies, this is not a movie that is strictly set in reality, but in a movieverse alternative, where getting an accidental concussion can cause anyone to switch from being a neuter to being a liberated sex addict and vice versa.

The social message the Waters seems to be pushing here -- that many people are too uptight when it comes to sex and too few are tolerant of other peoples private lives -- is somewhat obvious to many of us. However, I don't think that a social message was even close to being Waters primary objective. A Dirty Shame is a farce through and through and arguably only fails if audiences don't laugh at it. The imagery and language is always overtly sexual, never subtle. From the numerous suggestive shapes taken by trees and fauna to Sylvia's daughters Ursula Udders' (Selma Blair) enhanced breasts, this is a movie designed to shock and titillate.

I can recommend this movie to those who don't mind the sort of over the top hijinxs Waters employs. There aren't any well developed characters, the actors play their roles well, but there are no moments of stand out acting, and the plot is somewhat trite. For anyone who isn't put off by any of that, the movie can be uproariously funny for those who aren't afraid or put off by the sort of outrageous and potentially offensive material that Waters uses to tell this story.

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