Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dirty Girl

Dirty Girl, the opening night feature of the 16th Annual Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, is the story of a straight girl and a gay boy in Norman, Oklahoma who just don't quite fit into the small town's vision of what it is to be a teenager of the 1980's.  Danielle is promiscuous and outspoken, while her soon to be partner in crime Clarke is introverted and in the closet.  The two meet after Danielle is sent to the "Challengers" class (a politically correct term for Special Education) after  asking her "Life Choice" (sex education)  teacher his thoughts on the pull out method.  The two are saddled together as partners for the standard "caring for a baby" assignment, in this case a bag of white flour they name Joan, after Joan Jett or Joan Crawford, depending on who you ask.

At first Danielle has no time for assignment or Clark, but after her mother informs her she intends to marry her long-time boyfriend Ray, a Mormon with two kids from a prior marriage,  Danielle enlists Clark to help her find her father she has never met.  At first Clark refuses but after his parents find his gay porn magazines under is bed, he steals his Dad's car, credit card, and takes off on a Thelma & Louise-esque trip with Danielle to California to find her dad.

Along the way they pick-up a hitchhiking male stripper who teaches Clark how to dance and takes his virginity, but only after Danielle gives him some financial incentive to do so.  This leads to the young Bonnie and Clyde needing to enter an amateur stripping contest to pay for gas money.  At first Danielle can't understand why her best moves are not working on the room of drunk men, but after learning it is a gay bar, Clark is trust upon stage to perform in a scene reminiscent of Flashdance, water and all.

Unfortunately, Clark's dad catches up Danielle and Clark, who sacrifices himself so Danielle can get away and reach her dad's house, but not before her mom with Clark's mom in tow get there first.  After heart breaking reunion between father and daughter, Danielle returns home a changed girl, much more reserved and wanting to just make it through the day.

In the film's final twist, Danielle performs in the school talent show Melissa Manchester's Don't Cry Out Loud, only to find Clark standing at the back of the auditorium having returned from his military school incarceration. As the two are reunited in a seemingly over the top yet touching scene from An Officer and a Gentleman, the two complete the duet with on stage together. 

Dirty Girl is yet another example of how film can and should rely on the narrative to engage the audience and not rely on gimmicks to distract from the lack of narrative.  With continuous memorable one-liners that you will never stop quoting to your friends, this film has a feel and texture reminiscent of classic John Hughes's 80's teen flicks like The Breakfast Club, and clearly will stand the test of time with its universal appeal to that formerly fat kid we all still fee like we are.  

With an amazing all star cast, including Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, Milla Jovovich, Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw, and even a cameo from Melissa Manchester herself (who happened to be in attendance at the screening for the opening night feature of the 16th Annual Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival), and break out performances from the two leads of the film, Juno Temple and Jeremy DozierDirty Girl shows that it is the story and acting that make a film so powerful and memorable.

In the end, Dirty Girl reminds us all about the search to find love and acceptance and how much it can hurt to have the love we seek be unattainable. This no more clearly depicted than when Danielle sees her dad playing with her little half-sister and she knows that the bond he shares with her is something she will never feel.  This one heart breaking scene is reason enough for this film to receive the Filmfreak Mafia seal of approval and yet there are so many more.  Thank you Three Dollar Bill Cinema for bringing this well crafted and deserving film to Seattle.  

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