Even taking the generally accepted subjectivity of humour and sentiment into account, I find it hard to fathom how such a sweet, funny, and well-cast comedy-drama as Dirty Girl (2010) could flop so hard, and attract so little positive buzz.
I suppose I am slightly biased by my pre-existing admiration for Juno Temple – who delivers another award-worthy performance as the eponymous potty-mouth, ‘Danielle’ – but this movie is really a two-hander, and I was also very impressed by Jeremy Dozier, making his screen debut as her shy, closeted classmate, ‘Clarke’. The two of them start to bond after Danielle is placed in a “special ed.” class, as punishment for talking dirty during a sexual health/abstinence lecture, and they’re paired up as the “parents” of a pretend baby, represented by a bag of flour. While researching the identity of Danielle’s long-lost father for the project, they discover his current address, and set off on a road trip to Fresno, to track him down and escape their respective domestic woes. Hilarity, broken hearts, (non-explicit) stripteases, and tearful encounters ensue.
I’m not going to pretend this movie is a perfect “10”… I think the plotting gets quite fuzzy towards the end, so the emotional highs and lows are never quite as high or low as they could be… but overall it’s such a fun, colourful, cheery ride, that I’m glad I ignored the reviews and picked up a copy on import (it still hasn’t been released in the UK, dammit!). I thought the scene where Danielle and Clarke dance in their car (to Teena Marie’s “Lovergirl”) was a particular stand-out, and may well count as my fave movie moment of the year so far… and I still keep chuckling every time I think about the changing expressions on the face of their seemingly sentient flour-bag baby (“Joan”). I know it’s a silly joke… but I can’t help myself!*
Of course, there are a couple of human co-stars who deserve a mention too: First up, it was great to see Milla Jovovich doing comedy again, playing Danielle’s reformed “dirty girl” mother… and pairing her with William H. Macy, as a devout Mormon step-father-to-be, made for a great dynamic. Then there was Mary Steenburgen as Clarke’s mousy mother, who learns how to roar and stand up to her homophobic child-beating husband, played by Dwight Yoakam. Top rate cast, all around!
* When I spotted “Joan” in the above photo while cropping it, I actually started giggling again! There may be something wrong with me…