Title: Dirty Girl
Directed By: Abe Sylvia
Starring: Juno Temple, Jeremy Dozier, Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, William H Macy, Nicholas D’Agosto, Tim McGraw
Sure it’s nice to get a movie that truly moves you and leaves you with a little something to take home after the credits roll, but don’t you ever want to go to the theater and just have some fun? Well, if that’s on your agenda, Dirty Girl is worth a look. And while it doesn’t transcend that barrier into the territory of the truly deep and meaningful, it does have a relatively impressive degree of emotion to offer.
Danielle (Juno Temple) is promiscuous and proud of it. When some bad behavior lands her in the “challenged” class, she’s forced to team up with her gay, hyper-quiet classmate, Clarke (Jeremy Dozier), and play mom and dad to a bag of flower they dub Joan, him for Crawford and her for Jett. While neither Danielle nor Clarke feel the need to play nice initially, when they each get a peek into the other’s tumultuous home life, they come to realize they’ve got a lot in common and can actually help each other.
With her mother (Milla Jovovich) about to marry a straightedge Mormon man (William H. Macy), Danielle begs Clarke to highjack his father’s care so they can drive to Los Angeles so she can find her birth father (Tim McGraw). At first Clarke refuses, but when his father (Dwight Yoakam) finds some of his naughty paraphernalia, Clarke has no choice: he’s got to get out of there. And so Danielle and Clarke hit the road with Joan in tow, having a blast while free of their restrictive parents, but actually learning quite a bit about family along the way.
Dirty Girl boasts a particularly unique tone and Abe Sylvia does it justice by establishing it right off the bat. It’s got the sass of Mean Girls, but also a powerful degree of intimacy courtesy of two very well developed lead characters. The film is somewhat based on Sylvia’s experience and it shows, as he’s got an incredible understanding of both Danielle and Clarke and knows how to effectively bring them to life on the screen.
Also speaking to Sylvia’s intense connection to the characters are his casting choices. Temple is easily establishing herself as an actress that’s capable of just about anything, going dark and rather malicious in Cracks to more commercial (and underused) in Year One to showing off her wild and fun loving side both here and in Kaboom. She’s got purely natural talent that allows her to jump from genre to genre in what seems like an effortless fashion. Thanks to Temple, Danielle isn’t merely a slut that learns a lesson, rather a troubled teen who can have some fun while experiencing one heck of an arc. What results is an absolute blast to watch, but treads into heart wrenching territory, too.
As for Clarke, Dozier is a notable find. While Juno’s portrayal feels rather effortless, Dozier’s comes off as a bit more calculated, which is ideal not only for his character, but for the relationship between Clarke and Danielle. At the onset, their relationship is defined by antagonistic banter, some of which is downright hilarious. In a brisk, but digestible transition, the two move from tolerating each other to thoroughly enjoying the company. Yes, this is all successful, but what makes the relationship between Clarke and Danielle transcend many other on screen friendships is how it sheds the snarky chat, assumes a more dramatic form and is still just as effective.
Impressively, while firmly giving Danielle and Clarke the spotlight, Sylvia still manages to create a collection of solid supporting characters. While Yoakam’s Joseph fits nicely in this comedic piece, he still turns this character into an intensely threatening opposition. Jovovich finds herself somewhere in the middle as Sue-Ann. She clearly loves her daughter, but is well aware of her lack of discipline. Oddly, you want her to be a good mother and set Danielle straight, but then you’re also fighting for Danielle and what she wants, creating an engaging and rather realistic relationship. As for Steenburgen, she presents an intriguing conflict as well as she’s going head-to-head with her husband and Danielle, too. Watching how Peggy handles both situations turns her into a nicely layered character rather than merely having a one-dimensional secondary presence.
Making the performances even stronger are the technical elements. Everything from Sylvia’s shooting style to the title font speaks to what Dirty Girl is looking to accomplish. The sparkly pink title text lets you know exactly what you’re in for and, from there, Sylvia has some fun with the camera, showing off interesting angles and composition. Things are taken another step further in the editing room where Jonathan Lucas nails the comedic timing and manages to use a handful of cuts to black in a particularly appropriate manner.
If you’re on the hunt for a coming-of-age comedy that gives you what you want yet transcends the genre truisms, Dirty Girl’s got it covered. It rocks fun loving characters, some hilarious dialogue and an appropriate dose of emotion all wrapped up in a tight presentation that packs the power to even bring that little bag of flour turned baby to life.