Everybody has that friend who lacks social skills and sometimes calls at 2 in the morning after having too many cocktails, but is allowed to keep hanging around because his/her heart is in the right place. Dirty Girl is that friend. Although I could list problems with the debut film from writer/director Abe Sylvia, I still found myself very charmed by it. It reminded me of too many of my favorite movies to completely dismiss it. If I was making a pro/con list of reasons to break up with my friend, it would be pretty equal on both sides.
If you've seen Slums of Beverly Hills or Drop Dead Gorgeous, you are familiar with the whip-smart teen girl character who is clumsily navigating the whole "growing up" predicament. Juno Temple's version of this, Danielle, deals with her uncertainty by being the town slut. She smokes, uses too much eyeliner, wears revealing clothes, and has a protocol for choosing her next sexual victim that is way beyond her years. She talks like Diablo Cody's Juno with a Southern accent and more frank references to genitalia. All of these things mean she is really fun to watch, but as the movie goes on, she gains a conscience and becomes more grounded, which is kind of a bummer.
As is always the case with the genre, you know that Danielle has to have a plucky, sassy co-conspirator, who, against all odds, ends up being the closeted, overweight Clarke (Jeremy Dozier). His creepy, abusive father Joseph (Dwight Yoakam) makes a huge deal out him being gay, although we're not even sure that he actually is for quite some time. So much conversation is based on Clarke's sexuality that it feels weird to refrain from outing him to the audience, but regardless, his shrinking violet mother (Mary Steenburgen) isn't much help. She is living in fear of everything going on in her house, so she just skitters around like a mouse until her son really needs her.
Movies like this need a second and third act with a lot of teen angst and a new, exciting location, so in this movie Danielle and Clarke steal Joseph's car. Their goal is to find Danielle's birth father that she has never known. On the road they meet a coincidentally gay dancer (Nicolas D'Agosto), Clarke wins a stripping contest, and they try out a vibrating bed (reminiscent of Slums' vibrator dance, if you remember that). The film rolls downhill to Serious Town when Danielle finds her father, and although the performers are equipped to handle it, it gets more heavy-handed as it winds to a close.
I neglected to mention that the entire time, they've had their school project along, which is a sack of flour acting as their baby. When the baby starts changing it's sharpie'd-on expressions based on what's happening, I got haughty. Don't you tell me how to feel, sack-of-flour baby. Even you can't trick me into thinking this movie isn't a mixed bag.