Sunday, December 28, 2008

Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974)

The demented soliloquy that is the sound of a car aerial being repeatedly thrashed against a supple, un-violated behind was something I unfortunately never experienced as a child (I was so freaking well-behaved). However, through the magic of inelegant cinema, I have since been able to witness this alternative child rearing technique first hand. Where, you might ask, did I find such a film that showed this irregular nurturing in action? Well, I saw it in Female Trouble (a.k.a. Rotten Mind, Rotten Face), John Waters' salacious ode to crime and beauty, that's where. One of the most educational and enlightening films about parenting I have ever had the pleasure of viewing with the seeing part of my face, this moralistic adventure through the disgusting mire that is city living mirrors my life almost exactly. For example, I, too, openly ate meat ball sandwiches in class; cut my daughter's umbilical cord by using my teeth; let my hippie husband breach my vagina with needle-nose pliers; and giggled my flabby hindquarters at a go-go bar. Wait a minute, none of these things happened to me. Talk about gross. I mean, meatballs? On a sandwich? Eww! Seriously though, tantamount to staring directly at some sort of mirror-like object, to see my values shamelessly spewed across the screen like they are in Female Trouble was liked being bathed in a vat of coagulated saliva. Now, the dewy contents of people's mouths invading your clogged pores may not be the most flattering way to describe the sensation of watching a film. But if you've seen the film from beginning to end multiple times like I have, then you know that it's the highest praise one can give. It sure beats the old, "I liked the movie. It was funny" routine.

The film diligently follows the unbalanced life of one Dawn Davenport: thief, stripper, waitress, single mother, prostitute, abused wife, disfigured super-model, liquid eyeliner addict, and mass murderer.

It might be hard to believe, but the reason she became all of those things can be attributed to the lack of cha-cha heels in her life. Her friends, Concetta (Cookie Mueller) and Chicklet (Susan Walsh), were warned as to what might happen if her parents failed to bestow her with cha-cha heels on Christmas morning, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Dawn flipped out when she discovered they weren't under the tree. Her father tried to tell her that "Nice girls don't wear cha-cha heels," but Dawn was so dead set on cha-cha heels, that she burst from her house in nothing but a puke green nightgown and never looked back. Of course, this leads her to partaking in all the activities I listed above.

The only positive thing to happen to her after the cha-cha heel incident was her acceptance as a regular customer at the exclusive Lipstick Beauty Salon (you have to go through a rigorous audition). Run by the dictatorial Donald and Donna Dasher, Dawn experiences a brief taste of happiness at the selective salon. Brief, because the Dasher's are making plans for Dawn, sinister plans.

There are a lot of things to overly praise about Female Trouble: the unpleasant sex, the bizarre outfits, and the unsavoury posturing. However, it's the outlandish dialogue that keeps me coming back for more, as John Waters' script features some of the most clever one-liners I've ever heard said aloud in a movie. And the quintet of Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary are more than up for the demanding task of reciting it in the most exuberant manner possible.

One of the few films that I'll watch with the subtitles switched on, the dialogue is like listening to twisted poetry as spoken by an over rehearsed gaggle of drug addicts. Take, for example, the dinner party scene: the amount of sheer funniness in this segment never fails to bring a single tear to my urethra. A classic, not only in terms of comedy, but in terms of depicting humanity in an honest and forthright manner.

The legendary Divine is spectacular as the misguided Dawn Davenport, the world's most unfit mother. Playing an insolent teen and a grotesque freak in the same movie is one thing, but engaging in a sex scene with yourself on a dingy mattress on the side of the road has to be the pinnacle of high art. Oh, and call me slightly unhinged, but I think Divine has a timelessness about him. I mean, his face is quite appealing. Don't worry, when fantasizing, I try to imagine Divine's head in on Kirstie Alley's body circa 1991 ('92, if I'm feeling extra naughty).

I loved Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary's possessed enthusiasm as the sex-hating, beauty-loving Mr. and Mrs. Dasher. The brief exchange they have with one another as they're walking towards Davenport's ramshackle house was priceless; especially Pierce's nervousness over the prospect of rats gnawing on her brand new nylons.

Of course, as with all of John Waters' early films, it's the gorgeous Mink Stole who shines the brightest. Playing Dawn's fourteen year old daughter, Taffy Davenport, the sexy Mink repeatedly makes Meryl Streep look like a dishevelled whore through her unblinking industriousness.

Attacking Waters' dialogue like a ravenous beast, the way the refined actress hurls complaints and insults in this film was the equivalent of listening to a rogue scholar give a commencement speech on the wonders of crystal meth. The mere thought of Mink uttering her lines like a normal person makes me shudder.

Dressing Mink in little girl clothes was also a nice touch, as it causes your aroused state to doubt itself every time she'd stomp into the room. Anyway, Taffy Davenport is hands down the coolest movie character ever to be filmed rubbing Ketchup all over their chests while pretending to be in a car accident on a garbage dump-quality chesterfield.

Oh, and "I wouldn't suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls" is not only the greatest line ever to be uttered in a film, it's my new mantra.

video uploaded by a96ozsteak


  1. Wow, you wouldn't believe the number of Canadians on that cruise!!! Jeez, Canucks everywhere! Probably has something to do with the weather since I hear it was COLD up there. Actually, it was 20 degrees in SC the day we left.

  2. Hey, welcome back! I hope you had a pleasant trip.

    I'm not surprised. I mean, I've heard many a cruise taker over the past few years tell me that their respective boats were crawling with Canadians.

    Speaking of which, did you see Gowan perform? I hear he does cruise ships nowadays. ;)

  3. Oh my God! d. and I kept seeing something program on our television about Nelson! Remember them? Crappy nineties duo--twins--with long blonde hair? Apparently, they had performed on our particular cruise liner, but luckily, they weren't on it this time.

    Oh, but we did get this strange Vegas-style medley of cover songs from the 80s with interpretive dance. For example, some lady sang "Take My Breath Away" while dancers dangled and spun around in the air. The most alternative song performed was probably "Bizarre Love Triangle," but the video monitors on both sides of the stage teased us with clips from The Cure. Alas, no Robert Smith impersonators.

  4. I remember Nelson. They were so blonde, they made Swedes doubt themselves. Seriously. They were like something out of a creepier than usual fairytale.

    At first I thought you said "Visage-style medley." And I was all like "Steve Strange in da hiz-house! Let's get new romantic, yo!" But alaska.

    Interpretive dance?!? Now that's what I'm talking about.

    Anyway, it sounds kinda cheesy, but in an awful way.

    The Homicide theme got its ass handed to it. :(