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A Dirty Shame | Review

The Vagina Monologue

The John Waters namebrand runs amuck and runs thin.

Winterbottom breaks out the radio hits for a feature full of quickies, Vincent Gallo abruptly ends his film with some stimuli and Catherine Breillat brings some 3-x for her latest examination, but Pink Flamingos famed John Waters’ Dirty Shame takes a lighter, more wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap approach with his newest film.

In a bit-sized town of Baltimore, the birds are doing it, the bees are doing it and the three bears are doing it. The wave of heat is getting on the nerves of the town’s folks – but not heat as in metrological conditions but rather as in too much testosterone. When a sexless housewife (Tracy Ullman) whose not giving it up for her husband gets into a traffic accident, her life takes a turn for the worse or better and then begins a series of widespread concussions – more than a pro hockey player could endure. Not surprisingly, in a town where everyone has a name that could pass as a porn star identity, Sylvia Stickle’s “jock itch” or “burning bush” proves to be her new found center of gravity. Lead by a wise-cracking anti-smut crusading grandmother, half the town enrolls for a Salem-like witch hunt while the others participate in this sex-o-thon axis of pleasure which finishes in one cosmic splat.

Making a case for bad taste, Water’s appropriately titled comedy is an exaggerated commentary that’s fittingly in tune with the current cultural obsession and over-fascination with sex. Pumping in subliminal messages with classic bits that remind of those “preventative measures” school films, this could have been the quite the frolic of the year, but the only parts that show any creativity are in the countless pet names for a women’s sexual organ. While the film may be warped enough to satisfy the MPAA, it ends up disconnecting itself from the idea behind the idea. Satirical puns get camouflaged by all the gross misconduct, the god awful characters, horribly filmed sequences and a bottomless pit of bad taste that fails to drum up any moment that may be considered movie-dollar worthy.

A Dirty Shame might draw in the curious Knoxville on-lookers or specialty magazine readers who know a thing or two about oddly-lettered bra sizes but even fans used to “you get what you ask for” in a John Water’s film might feel somewhat strained by mountain heap full of trash.

Rating 0.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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