New on DVD today is the story of two troubled high school students, Dirty Girl, barely released in theaters by the Weinstein Company last year. An obese gay kid named Clarke (Jeremy Dozier in his movie debut) is tagged in a voiceover by the school’s tramp, Danielle (Juno Temple, Atonement). When they’re teamed in special education with a bag of flour for parenting class, their worlds collide, merge and challenge what they think it means to be young, independent and “dirty.” This low-budget film, written and directed by Abe Sylvia and picked up by Weinstein at the Toronto Film Festival, begins in Norman, Oklahoma, with broad comedy and Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night”. It evolves into a poignant tale of friendship.
Dirty Girl is choppy at first, trying to bring everything together, with Clarke’s conservative parents (Dwight Yoakam and Mary Steenburgen) sending him to therapy and ready to dispatch him to military school and trailer park girl Danielle’s negligent mother (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil) keeping secrets and ready to convert to Mormonism to snag a husband (William H. Macy, TV’s Shameless) who wants to adopt the teen-aged tramp. Danielle refuses, literally kicking and screaming, while Clarke’s gay porn literally gets him busted. Just as Danielle feels she’s being “starved into being Mormon,” Clarke makes a run for it. Before you can say Thelma and Louise, the unlikely duo become runaways for Fresno, California, in search of liberation by way of finding Danielle’s long-lost father (Tim McGraw).
They clash, live and learn and encounter a Westward-bound drifter (Nicholas D’Agosto) who offers a distraction from their stated goals, as Danielle puts it, culminating in a beautifully filmed striptease. With worried parents, Clarke’s obsession with singer Melissa Manchester (Jeff Toyne’s underlying orchestrations enhance the 80s’ pop songs) and that sack of flour cleverly serving both as Dirty Girl‘s Greek chorus and as a reminder of their mutual homework assignment, they become as liberated as they can handle and, of course, discover facts of life, particularly in an evocative sequence to the tune “Rainbird” in which both teen-agers face the reality of their parents’ choices. Jovovich and Steenburgen add depth and tenderness to their maternal roles and the cast, especially Temple, generally shines in this unusual, moving tale of friendship and self-realization. The ending is contrived, and it’s uneven here and there, but the better second half ties into a thoughtful, musically integrated theme that boys and girls ought to grow up on their own terms with parental guidance best focused on facts and fitness for life. As untamed in language (with full frontal nudity) as its title suggests, Dirty Girl is a bit raunchy. But like most of what people call “dirty”, it serves a joyful sense of play.