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Toronto 2010: “Dirty Girl,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Dirty Girl,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

It wouldn’t be fair to the filmmakers behind “Dirty Girl” to ignore the fact that after it became the film to score one of the richest distribution deals thus far at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, a target was placed on its back. With that said, I now know what it must felt like to have been part of the audience for the film’s first press screening of Joel Schumacher’s drama “Twelve” where it had been jeered and laughed at only to discover days later it had been bought for $2 million. As a comedy, “Dirty Girl” has precious few laughs, but delivers the same sort of shock — I could’ve gone the rest of my days happily without seeing Dwight Yoakam simulate ejaculating on his prized Cadillac with a garden hose during a gratuitous car wash scene or the sweaty striptease of portly newcomer Jeremy Dozier clad in “Flashdance” regalia, doused in water in front of a confederate flag.

If “Dirty Girl” made me feel anything, it was a sense of empathy for the poor people of Oklahoma, where the film is set and the folks are broadly drawn by writer/director Abe Sylvia — and I’m an alum of the University of Texas. Like an extended middle finger to middle America, Sylvia injects as much venom as possible into the story of Danielle (Juno Temple), a promiscuous teen in 1987 Oklahoma whose class assignment of a family tree leads her to look for her long-gone father.

Why she’s doing an assignment like this in high school is questionable, since I remember such projects well behind me by the time the 3rd or 4th grade rolled around, but it’s convenient for the story since Danielle is old enough to drive, which is important when she and her gay classmate Clarke take off in his father’s aforementioned Caddy for California where she believes her pops resides. Unpopular at school and even less so at home where Clarke’s homophobe dad (Yoakam) and Danielle’s Mormon soon-to-be stepfather lay down the law, only the mothers (Milla Jovovich and Mary Steenburgen) care enough to look when they flee Norman.

09182010_DirtyGirl3.jpgDisguised as a satire of quaint Midwestern values, “Dirty Girl” plays out like any angry tirade, where passion soon gives way to lapses in logic and reckless disregard for anything that doesn’t move the story forward. While Dozier and Temple clearly give their all to their roles, the characters are hopelessly inconsistent.

Dozier’s Clarke, the fat kid with jowls like a bulldog who battles with awkwardness at school, is liberated once he’s out on the road, free to proposition a stranger in a gas station stall by complimenting his Bugle Boy jeans (not for sex initially, but where it leads is far more ridiculous). Likewise, Temple’s Danielle spends the first half of the picture taking pride in her sluttiness as a badge of honor, only to be offended when a hotel manager (Brian Baumgartner) suggests she’s a whore in the second, presumably because the film can’t play off of it anymore for cheap gags.

The only reason you can never really know where “Dirty Girl” is headed is due to Sylvia’s ability to take a cliché and overdo it to the point where other filmmakers would’ve stopped — there’s more than one striptease, the ’80s soundtrack heavy on Melissa Manchester is overbearing, and tight closeups are employed for some of the mildest conversations. The height of hilarity in the movie is the changing expressions on the sack of flour Danielle and Clarke carry around as their baby as part of their school assignment, but even then, it’s a case of diminishing returns. (On an unrelated note, the whole film looks like it was shot in a haze, which is even more of a surprise when discovering cinematographer Steve Gainer was also responsible for the excellent vérité look of fellow TIFF title “Super.”)

09182010_DirtyGirl2.jpgOf course, films less skilled technically than this have gotten by on the strength of their script, but “Dirty Girl” subsists on a steady diet of filthy language pouring out of Temple’s mouth and flamboyant dialogue from Dozier, neither of whom can overcome the general strain of nastiness inherent in the material. Sure, we’re supposed to root for Clarke and Danielle to find themselves on the road, but when Danielle tells Clarke early in the film, “I don’t want your AIDS on my couch,” you’d think it would take more than a day or two to become BFFs as they do.

Similarly, no amount of feathered hairdos or break-ins of Teena Marie’s “Lovergirl” (which allows for a sing-along moment on the drive to Fresno) can dress up the fact that “Dirty Girl” is pretty empty at its core, a film that would like to be about self-empowerment when it ultimately reinforces the attitudes that breed self-contempt. Some may call “Dirty Girl” sharp and edgy, and that’s their right, but I found it downright dull.

“Dirty Girl” was picked up by the Weinstein Company and will play once more in Toronto on September 18th.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.