As almost everyone knows, John Waters used to make gloriously trashy films, except that he stopped doing so in the nineties and calmed down a fair deal. His films were still out there, but Serial Mom and Pecker moved away from the more shocking elements usually found in his work and had a more serious, satirical edge to them. So it’s pleasing to see that the last proper film he directed, A Dirty Shame, saw Waters return to a similar style of his seventies oeuvre, as it’s an often gloriously puerile affair.
The film revolves around Tracey Ullman playing a pissed off wife working in her Mother’s convenience store, until she’s accidentally concussed and meets Johnny Knoxville’s Ray Rays at the scene of the accident. He does what all good passer-by’s should do – cunnilingus – and in Ullman a sex addict is born. Up until this point the film slowly simmers, hinting at the crazy depravity that’s about to be let loose, but the moment Johnny’s between her legs, well, all hell breaks out, much to chagrin of Ullman’s Mother, who sets up a organisation for the neuters – those who hate sex – to regain the neighbourhood.
Now A Dirty Shame isn’t the smartest John Waters’ movie, and it’s not the funniest either. But for those who love to be surprised and occasionally shocked, albeit in a very good humoured manner, it’s a delight. Nearly every type of sexual preference is on display here, from sploshing to scat, but it’s put across in such a positive and funny way that even if you’re watching something which isn’t your cup of tea, then you won’t be offended by it.
Or at least you shouldn’t be, for the central message is all about tolerance, and if this message is put across in a slightly heavy handed way, maybe it needs to be considering the current climate in the US where religion’s on the rise and sex is increasingly becoming a taboo subject again. Some might feel Waters didn’t go far enough of course, and it doesn’t feature anything quite as insane as his early films, but if you like your comedies bizarre and unusual then you won’t regret catching it for a second.