A Dirty Shame

A Dirty Shame is about a Baltimore, MD neighborhood whose residents are divided into two separate groups. On one side, you have the Neuters, who are all about decency and are disgusted at the depravity going on in the streets. On the other side, you have the concussed sex addicts, all of whom have suffered head injury and just want to be free with their sexual desires. One small family finds itself split across both sides. With a plot like that, it should be no surprise the original cut of the movie was rated NC-17. The movie gets going pretty quickly, Tracy Ullman’s character Sylvia suffers an accidental bump to the head, and Johnny Knoxville’s character Ray Ray is there to release her inner sexual desires. With all this, she finds a way to relate to her daughter Caprice/Ursula Udders (I can’t make this shit up) played by Selma Blair – who is probably one of the few actresses bad enough to pull this role off right. This happens all while Sylvia’s own mother, Big Ethel, is the leader of the Neuters and is leading the crusade of morality.

The movie starts off like it has a direction. There are some amusing parallels between the neuters and the addicts and other groups divided over controversial topics, but it really fails to capitalize on that for either any point of the movie or even a laugh. While there are plenty of memorable quotes in this movie, many of which might get you banned from various public establishments if they had any idea of what you were talking about, but that is about it. The movie hits its peak at about an hour in and then just sort of drags on to the end. The movie ends with no real resolution nor satisfaction for the viewer. I guess the addicts win and get to go on freeing the world or something, or they just sit in a big pile and hump each other. I don’t think it really matters anyway.

Overall, the acting is pretty terrible, but that’s John Waters for you. Everything is over the top, especially the dialog, and that is the way it was meant to be. Even though the acting is terrible, the casting is dead on. I doubt many actresses other than Tracy Ullman could have pulled the role of Sylvia off, and as I said earlier, there are few actresses as terrible enough as Selma Blair who could have pulled off Ursula Udders without sacrificing some dignity or just looked completely stupid. I’m not really sure that is a compliment either. On the plus side, the soundtrack is hilarious. Initially, the songs are subtle enough to lead you to believe they may have been legit songs decades ago, but seem to up the innuendo ante as they go on.

If you like John Waters’ films, you’ll love A Dirty Shame. If you are expecting a typical sex comedy, you might want to rent Van Wilder instead. If you really uptight, you’ll probably turn this movie off within the first five minutes – and start a local neuters chapter and campaign for morality in the cinema.

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