Dirty Girl ★★★

Abe Sylvia’s youthful road flick Dirty Girl tells the story of an unlikely pair of high school misfits—Juno Temple as an underaged, self-possessed, blonde nymphomaniac and Jeremy Dozier as a pudgy, pop music loving, closet case loner—turned totes besties in this coming-of-age comedic drama. The film is interestingly set in the ‘80s, the era of encroaching social conservatism in America and a time when late ‘60s and ‘70s free love bohemia has all but gone kaput. In a way Temple’s Danielle, the movie’s eponymous super sassy uber-libertine, acts as a symbolic middle finger salute to the backward sexual mentality and sanctimonious values of the prudish establishment. A pity that the film turns out to be an uneven affair and the juicy gender politics and social undertones are tossed aside in favor of haute camp instead. The narrative’s ruinous ascension to hackneyed soap opera territory outweighs whatever poignancy is offered. Besides, Sylvia has nothing fresh or substantial to say and, worse, he can’t think of a proper send-off for his characters. Despite the plot’s facetious antics and the cringe-worthy finale, this colorful movie is still worth watching thanks to Temple and her partner in crime.

Young Danielle is unlike any other girl in school for she is a master in wielding the power of the pussy. I respect her enormously because she simply gets it; she is aware of the fact that female orgasm, that unattainable object of desire, is what truly makes the world go round and she entices viewers to let loose their limited ideas on sex and unshackle themselves from the bonds of patriarchy. Temple is inspired casting, strutting ever so provocatively like a twangy, brazenly untamable Sue “Lolita” Lyon, never a caricature as she’s intimidatingly real. People call her slut, call her whore, but no one will ever be this free. She basks in the freedom of her sexual pleasures while ignoring any labels dissed at her, which makes Danielle the cinematic heroine that feminism deserves. Bow down, bitches. Unsurprisingly the powers that be won’t have any of this (“nobody likes a dirty girl” said with such repugnant smugness by the principal) so, as punishment, into the special-ed crowd she goes. Oh the irony. Unbeknownst to our sexually precocious protagonist, destiny awaits in the form of six-on-the-Kinsey-scale, raging queen Clarke, who she meets in her new class. Bringing them closer together sardonically enough is a school project on parenthood where they play as Mommy and Daddy with a small flour bag as their baby. This touched a raw nerve and eventually shit goes down. Soon the duo is on the road and off to a journey of self-discovery and maturity.

The performance is the film’s strong suit and much has been said about Temple so let me chime in on Dozier for a bit, who is absolutely great as Clarke. The young man channels his inner Flashdance-era Jennifer Beals, complete with a directly referential on-stage performance (at a gay biker bar no less), water splash and everything. Anyone who can stand toe to toe with Temple is ok in my book and Dozier spars with her like a pro. The rest of the cast is also nice especially Milla Jovovich and Mary Steenburgen, who play as the mothers of Danielle and Clarke. What’s not so cool is the director’s undeveloped ideas, leading him to resort to cliches and lazy plot devices (e.g. that subplot about the hitchhiker-cum-stripper is painfully forced). It gets eye-rolling, like when the duo meets estranged Papa Danielle (played by a certain country music superstar, just about the last person one would ever expect to spawn Danielle). Then there’s the maudlin conclusion, which is a real doozie. Who didn’t see that coming?

Dirty Girl can be all over the place with its themes, but it’s a fun movie that is respectful and mindful of loose women and homosexuals. The director actually molded Clarke out of his own personal experiences back in high school and I could tell that Sylvia reveres Danielle to the point of adulation. Good for him. Long live the nymphs of cinema.