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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dirty Girl - A Film Review

Dirty Girl is a 2010 coming-of-age dramedy written and directed by Abe Sylvia. The film stars Juno Temple, Jeremy Dozier, Milla Jovovich, Dwight Yoakam, and Mary Steenburgen, with cameos by William H. Macy and Tim McGraw.  Sylvia based this fictional film on his own experiences as a teen boy in 1980s Oklahoma.

The film centers on two teenagers in 1987 Oklahoma who are outcasts: Danielle (Temple), a troubled and promiscuous teen girl who never knew her father, has a strained relationship with her nosy mother (Jovovich), and hates her mother’s Mormon fiancĂ© (Macy), who is controlling and abusive in his methods to force his religion and rules on Danielle; and Clarke (Dozier), an overweight gay teen boy who is shy at school, is pressured to act straight by his homophobic father (Yoakam), is close to his sympathetic mother (Steenburgen) and secretly loves pop stars like Pat Benetar, Debbie Harry, and Melissa Manchester. The two meet in a high school class for “slow” students, and are partnered together in a class project where they are “married” and have to take care of a bag of flour as their “child.” They bond over their social weirdness and find kinship with one another, and, when both have had enough of the pressure from their families to conform, steal Jeremy’s dad’s car and hit the road to find Danielle’s absentee father in Fresno, CA.

The film is carried by two talented and spirited performances by Temple and Dozier. Both infuse their characters with a sympathetic air and a humor that cuts through a lot of the angst that they are going through. Dozier excelled at playing Clarke, a kid who is more self-assured around Danielle than anyone else, and gains the courage to be gay and unapologetic for it. And Temple shined in this role, making Danielle caring and kind underneath her bad-girl exterior, bringing out both vulnerability and a devil-may-care attitude that made her an awesome person. Temple, in particular, is a very talented and charismatic actress who has been great in indie films like Cracks and The Brass Teapot, despite the mixed to negative reviews of some of her films, and has developed a stellar career in the indie film world while being overlooked in the mainstream media.

The supporting cast give admirable performances, but the film centers on the two teen characters. The story is creative and interesting, as a coming-of-age road trip movie starring two high school outcasts who shake off the confines of their environment and find their identities. It also has a great soundtrack of 80’s women-led pop songs, opening beautifully with Pat Benetar’s “Shadows of the Night”; Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” over Clarke dancing in his room; Joan Jett’s “Do You Want to Touch Me” as Danielle struts across school, and Sheena Easton’s “Strut” in a roadside bar scene. The film was charming and likable, and was quite better than the initial title and image, which give a raunchy idea of what the movie would be about. It is streaming on Netflix, and I definitely recommend it, as well as Temple’s other indie films (more notably The Brass Teapot and Cracks).

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