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A Dirty Shame (2004)

  Directed by: John Waters
Written by: John Waters
Starring: Selma Blair, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville, Suzanne Shepherd, Tracey Ullman
Links: A Dirty Shame on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 9.00 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 14th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"No Shame in Dirty Loving" - a review by thestudent

I don't know how exactly this John Waters film, A Dirty Shame, worked. I'm not sure how a collection of actors including Tracey Ullman, Chris Isaak, Selma Blair, and an astoundingly good Johnny Knoxville managed to make this film work so well.

Centered around suffering housewife Sylvia Stickles, played by Ullman, the story tells of a community under siege by the sexually aware, forcing themselves upon the innocent. With well placed nods to the anti-communist films of America's 50s, the film pits the sexually aware 'sex addicts', led by Ullman's Stickles, against the wowsering 'Neuters', led by Stickle's mother, the angry Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd).

The film pulls at the threads of religious revivalism, encouraging the viewer to giggle slyly at every innuendo and simulated sex act along the way.

The film's roaring final act is preceded by the meeting of 'Sex Addicts Anonymous' in which Sylvia's sponsor encourages her to:

"Make a list of everyone you have fucked... and apologise to their parents."

Featuring a pop culturally well placed cameo by David Hasselhoff, this initially slow film just rolls on and on, drawing the audience into its saucy cinematic foreplay, whispering into its ear that if it just relaxes, "it'll enjoy it, I promise".

thestudent gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 5 Aug 2005

"Obscene, disgusting and vulgar - I love it!" - a review by timchuma

Silvia (Tracey Ullman) and Vaughn (Chris Isaak) are a happily married couple living in the Hartford Road district of a small town in America. Silvia is very uptight and hates sex, understandably, as her extremely over-endowed daughter Caprice (Selma Blair) is currently locked up at home due to multiple public nudity and indecency charges.

One particular morning, Silvia and Vaughn end up fighting over their daughter, who wants to go back to performing as 'Ursula Udders', leading to Silvia driving off in the car and Vaughn walking to work (saying hi to their strange neighbours on the way). On her way to work, Silvia ends up getting a concussion and is rescued by Ray Ray (Johnny Knoxville), a sexual healer, who tells her she is now a sex-addict - and how!

Arriving at her work we meet her mother Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd), who hates sex and the 'deviants' in the town and takes every opportunity to tell people about it. Silvia is desperate for sex by this stage and convinces Vaughn to pop out for 'Funch'.

During the course of the film we follow Silvia's increasingly weird sexual escapades including a rendition of the 'Hokey Pokey' at the nursing home you will never forget. The fun really begins when Silvia receives a second blow to the head and changes back to normal, leading to the whole family attending a 'sex addicts recovery' session which is raided by the sex addicts who are planning on taking over the town.

I haven't seen any of John Waters' films before, but I have heard about them and the controversy they have generated (Pink Flamingos (1972), for example, was banned in Australia), so I was really looking forward to this movie. Another reason I was looking forward to it was because Tracey Ullman stars as Silvia. I really enjoyed her work in the Tracey Takes On... television series that screened regularly on the ABC in Australia. It is a close call as to whether she is funnier as the sex addict or a 'neuter', as she plays them both so well.

What's really great about this movie is that she is even upstaged by some of the people in the supporting cast. Suzanne Shepherd's performance as Big Ethel is gold, as she is so nasty and bitter. Mink Stole is a brilliant partner with her as the equally nasty Marge the Neuter who seems to be obsessed with pubic shaving. Just about every sexual fetish is on display here, but it is all played for laughs, which is what makes it so much fun. There are so many great lines in this movie, it is difficult to pick just one and I recommend you see it with your friends or you will drive them mad repeating quotes they know nothing about.

John Waters is deliberately setting out to challenge conventions and generate controversy here and I wouldn't have it any other way. As with his other famous star Divine, even though some of the characters do things that seem disgusting, you do get the feeling they are real people and that what they are doing is natural for them.

This movie also serves to demonstrate how puerile and unfunny the material in most of the Wayans (Keenen Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans, and Shawn Wayans) and Farrelly (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly) Brothers' movies really is, and I could never watch those movies again without feeling disappointed.

This movie was extremely well received at the festival screening I saw, and it even sold out one of its sessions. Due to it being so extreme, I don't think it will do that well on general release, but it is destined to become a cult classic on DVD and will hopefully make more people fans of the work of this director. It is not only Waters who should do well out of this film: David Hasselhoff's cameo appearance will certainly give him something to talk about during interviews, and it raised my opinion of him considerably. I can't recommend this movie highly enough if you want a good laugh, as it is one of the funniest movies I have seen in years and I will definitely watch it again when it comes out on DVD. See it, and tell all your friends to do so.

timchuma gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 3 Aug 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 9.00
Lowest rating: 9 (by thestudent, timchuma)
Highest rating: 9 (by thestudent, timchuma)
Rating Percentage

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