I have seen only a few of John Waters’ movies. All of these movies he made during his most mainstream era. There was no escaping Cry-Baby back in 1990 and Serial Mom is a favorite of mine ever since I first saw it back in the mid-90s. I had caught glimpses of 2004’s A Dirty Shame around the time it was released, but I never saw it in its entirety. Until now that is and boy, what a fever dream this movie is!
A Dirty Shame stars Tracey Ullman as Sylvia. An uptight, middle-aged, repressed woman. When we meet her she rebuts her husband’s advances for sex in the morning and delivers breakfast to her adult daughter Caprice (Selma Blair) who is locked upstairs in a room. It turns out she’s under house arrest for indecent behavior.
Caprice has two enormous silicone breasts and dances under the name of Ursula Udders in a local strip joint. Much to Sylvia’s dismay, Caprice has an insatiable appetite for sex. In fact everybody around her seems to be in the possession of a rather high libido.
One day Sylvia gets hit on the head and has a concussion. This immediately turns her into a sex addict herself. This is illustrated by a shot of fire super-imposed over her crotch. Soon after she finds herself trying to get off at any available moment. Much to the shock of her even more uptight mother Big Ethel.
That is basically the entire plot of the movie. Sylvia finds herself guided by Johnny Knoxville who introduces her to all sorts of fetishes and kinks. From the relatively vanilla gay bears to an adult baby and a couple who throw up on each other. Not that Sylvia herself has an extreme fetish or something like that. It doesn’t get much crazier than shoving a water bottle up her vagina during a dance scene in a nursing home.
So pretty vanilla.
It turns out the entire neighborhood has bumped their had at one point turning them all into sex-addicts. Johnny Knoxville’s Ray Ray seems to somewhat of a messias and there is a little subplot about Sylvia being the 12th apostle but aside from a climax during the movie’s climax it bears no weight on the story.
A Dirty Shame has an NC-17 rating. Combine that with the plot about sex and one would expect movie filled with wall to wall nudity. But the movie is fairly tame when it comes to this. The sex scenes are played for laughs and feature little to no nudity. The outspoken gay Waters includes the occasional naked man in the movie as part of Sylvia’s fantasies but when it comes to female nudity Blair gets to whop around those prosthetic balloons for a good laugh and Susan Allenback has a scene in which she opens the door fully naked. It’s not often a plus size woman is shown this way in a “mainstream” movie. So my hat’s off to you John Waters.
But as a whole the movie is a one-note joke. Display a lot of horny people each with their own quirks and have some uptight citizens protest them. The movie made me laugh only a couple of times, but the central joke got old real fast.
There is also some pretty rough CGI in the movie in the form of a squirrel. That thing just looks terrible. That goes for basically all of the special effects. The only thing that actually looks great are the prosthetic boobs on Selma Blair. They look convincingly real.
A Dirty Shame feels like a late career Russ Meyer movie, but without all of the nudity. The movie has the same feel to it as movies like Supervixens and Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens. Meyer’s movies covered the same ground with plots about small town people who were often non-stop horny. But Meyers’ movie were pure softcore exploitation movies. Despite its NC-17 rating A Dirty Shame is a sanitized studio version of a such a film. No matter how many times a shot of fire is super-imposed over someone’s crotch.