A different type of anguish awaits moviegoers this weekend: The sexual kind, that of the latest John Waters joint, which weighs in as the cinematic equivalent of two hours of face time with Doctor Ruth. A Dirty Shame, the film in question, is loaded with all of the following plot cues: Tracy Ullman as a nymphomaniac, Johnny Knoxville as her suitor, and David Hasselhoff in a pivotal supporting role.
Beyond those signposts, Waters’ sixteenth prurient koan of movie goodness is eighty-plus minutes of limbs, flesh, and apostolic tomfoolery: Knoxville’s character Ray Ray is going to save us all. Is Mr. Waters expecting comedic know-how from a Jackass?
Regardless of the director’s expectations, Knoxville (Phillip John Clapp) and the proven Tracy Ullman (Sylvia Stickles) serve up a morality tale in reverse; Ray Ray, his fetishistic devotees, and their paraphilias engage the sexual “neuters” for control of Baltimore.
Given the palpable seaminess of the material, it stands to reason that John Waters is the ideological forebearer of Todd Solondz; both are iconoclastic in their appraisal of human nature as a beast with two backs and nary a compassionate thought.
Indeed, Waters’ A Dirty Shame begs us to compare him to an outrÃ© Rene Clair, or a Jerry Bruckheimer of the id. Each time Ray Ray exclaims, “Let’s go sexing,” an obvious conclusion is that satisfaction is grace for his followers, with action being their communion.
Selma Blair as Ursula Udders, brings a dramatic element to bear on the proceedings: To reduce or not to reduce?
It would seem as though the spirit of the film is contained entirely within the girth and heft of Udders’ oversized mammary glands.
Milking the premise and his characters’ circumstances for all they are worth, Waters goes beyond postmodernism to a construct that gives itself a wink and a thumbs-up as he flexes its precepts and promptly dismantles them, daunting the viewer via Waters’ exhibitionist ways and means.
The amazing thing is not that A Dirty Shame presupposes tolerance on the viewer’s part, but that it expectorates and collects this patience with the appetites that pool in the pit of the stomach; Waters’ goal herein is the exposition of sexuality and its various counterweights — Repression is given a most hellacious and amusing rhetorical spanking.