Sassy, brassy, all-around retro-flavoured fun! This story of two unlikely friends—the school’s “popular” girl and the withdrawn gay guy—is a celebration of life, love, and 80’s music. Though it does have some dramatic moments, Dirty Girl is mostly a comedy that made me want to laugh and dance, a fantastic conclusion to the 24th VQFF.
The year is 1987. The place is a small-town high school in Oklahoma. After mouthing off to her teacher one too many times, “dirty girl” Danielle is placed in the “Challengers” program for difficult or special-needs students. Here she meets Clarke, hoodied and alone, content to be as invisible as possible and let school pass him by. Paired up to raise a bag of flour as their child, they gradually bond. When Danielle gets a lead on the location of her birth father (until then a mystery), and Clarke’s parents find male centerfolds under his mattress, the two decide to hit the road.
Danielle and Clarke bond and bicker some more, and have your typical road trip adventures, with a gay twist; he picks up a handsome cowboy stripper at a rest stop who gives them a free show and shows Clarke a good time. Then after running out of money, Danielle decides to enter a stripping contest at a local bar. Her moves are good, but the crowd is totally unresponsive. Finally, Clarke puts 2 and 2 together: this is a gay bar! But how will they win that $50 prize now? No problem! Clarke can perform! Though reluctant, he remembers some of the stripper’s lessons and successfully channels his inner diva to win the prize!
Unfortunately, that’s when Clarke’s father catches up with them, and drags Clarke off to military school. Danielle goes on to California to see her birth father. It doesn’t go as well as she’d hoped. He’s a nice enough guy, but already has a family, and isn’t interested in a new teenage daughter. Danielle is devastated at first, but accepts that she gave it her all, and when that’s not enough, you just have to roll with the punches.
We catch up with the teens a few months later. Danielle seems to have given up or at least toned down her “dirty girl” ways, branching out into dance and song. During a heartbreaking rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” for a talent show, who should appear to help her with the chorus? It’s Clarke, looking damn fine in his spiffy uniform! Military school hasn’t broken his spirit, it seems. So the two reconnect, and everybody lives happily ever after.
That’s Dirty Girl, a fantastic ride through 1980’s America as seen through a queer lens. The funny bits were very, very funny—I haven’t even mentioned Clarke and Danielle’s “child” (ie: the bag of flour) which accompanied them on their travels, or all the creepy-funny interactions with Danielle’s mom’s Mormon boyfriend and his children—and the dramatic bits were well done and gripping. As lighthearted as the overall story is, all the main characters have fully fleshed-out personalities, with realistic conflicts and drives.
PS: this movie had some serious star power! Mila Jovovich, Dwight Yoakam, Gary Grubbs, Mary Steenburgen and Tim McGraw? Yes, they were all in this movie. Amazing.
PPS: this is a bit out of left field, but I wonder if protagonists’ mothers will eventually end up together? Clarke’s mother doesn’t seem to like her husband much, and he moves out by the end; Danielle’s mother was only dating that Mormon guy because she feels she needs to get married to someone decent. And in the very last scene, during Danielle’s performance, they were holding hands. I’m just saying…