Combustible Celluloid
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With: Juno Temple, Jeremy Dozier, Milla Jovovich, William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Gary Grubbs, Rob Boltin, Tim McGraw
Written by: Abe Sylvia
Directed by: Abe Sylvia
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including graphic nudity, and for language
Running Time: 90
Date: 09/12/2010

Dirty Girl (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Flour Child

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Getting caught in the "Grinch" syndrome, Abe Sylvia's Dirty Girl is much more fun when Danielle (Juno Temple) is behaving badly. Unfortunately, that lasts only about 20 minutes, and as soon as she befriends Clarke (Jeremy Dozier) -- an unlikely situation in itself -- the fun ends. The rest of the movie cooks up the usual road-trip clichés, with sing-a-longs to many 1980s radio tunes. 

In Norman, Oklahoma, circa 1987, Danielle is unhappy. Her mother (Milla Jovovich) is dating a religious nut (William H. Macy) that wants to convert the family. She drifts through high school using foul language, having sex and smoking cigarettes. In a family life class, she's paired with overweight, gay Clarke, whose father wants him to be more of a man. Clarke and Danielle are assigned to take care of a "baby," i.e. a sack of flour. But when Danielle learns the identity of her real father, she coaxes Clarke to steal his mom's car, and they hit the road for California, their sack of flour (named "Joan") in the back seat. 

Dirty Girl tries to throw in some surprises here and there, but these only seem like an extension of what came before, rather than any kind of sudden twist or turn. Moreover, the filmmakers try to send a handful of mixed messages about family and "being yourself." And thus, the bad behavior continues, but with a sour note rather than a gleeful, carefree one. The tone wobbles all over the place, ranging from pathos to magic realism (as Joan the bag of flour "reacts" to various situations). It all leads to a bizarre, frustrating conclusion that makes very little sense. In short, Dirty Girl should have been more reckless, more open-hearted -- and much dirtier.

Anchor Bay's DVD comes with a director's commentary track, and deleted/extended scenes.

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