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DVD Review: Dirty Girl

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I don’t know about this one. I remember when I first saw the trailer for Dirty Girl and knowing immediately that I wanted to see it. Partly because I thought it looked like a good movie (as any good trailer should) and partly because I think that Juno Temple could be a good up-and-coming actress (based on the small parts I have seen her in). Well, now the movie is here and I am not quite sure what to say about it. It is not a terribly good movie, but it isn’t downright awful either. It is a movie that feels like a mash-up of well-meaning ideas woven together by someone who wants to get it all out before he forgets it.

I am sure many of you know the feeling; I know I do. I sit down to write, full of great ideas and insights only to get partway through and find you are forgetting those clever quips and descriptions. By the end the finished piece rarely resembles what you intended for it. Dirty Girl feels a lot like that. Somewhere the brain-to-screen translation got a bit muddled in trying to make sure the ideas and references are all there.

Dirty Girl tells the story of a high school’s dirty girl, Danielle (Temple), and her shared coming-of-age story with chubby, closeted classmate Clarke (Jeremy Dozier). Danielle’s promiscuous, forward-thinking ideas pretty much label her an undesirable and her frank speak lands her in the remedial class, which is essentially a dumping ground for the outsiders that don’t fit in with the mainstream.

Danielle and Clarke are thrown together as a de facto couple for the class’s lesson on parenting. Their charge is a five-pound bag of flour, which becomes its own narrative device as its Sharpie-drawn face takes on a life of its own reflecting the mood of any given situation. In any case, these two outsiders have their share of angst with plenty of daddy issues to spare. This pretty much makes them the perfect friends as they become partners in rebellion.

Danielle is rebelling from her mothers (Milla Jovovich) interaction and the involvement of her Mormon fiancé (William H. Macy). Clarke, on the other hand, finds himself driven further into the closet by an overbearing father (Dwight Yoakam) with no help from his mousy mother (Mary Steenburgen). Danielle eventually ropes Clarke into her search for her absentee father. The road trip begins.

The trip has Clarke stealing his father’s car as the duo set out looking for Danielle’s father. This leads them on a journey of self discovery set to a steady stream of ’80s tunes. It feels a little jammed together and cliched without ever really getting to feel for the characters. It has a lot of surface to watch, some tunes to help set the mood, but when it comes to depth, it falls a little short.

It is my understanding that writer/director Abe Sylvia incorporated a number of details from his life growing up, spreading them across the details of Clarke’s and Danielle’s lives. I suspect it was something of a cathartic experience for him and allowed him to create a piece of entertainment while also working through some of his own issues. The end result is a moderately entertaining movie that I wish went a bit deeper.

Audio/Video. The DVD is presented in a ratio of 2.40:1. Generally speaking the video looks pretty good. There is a consistent level of detail throughout and it shoes in the lingering closeups on character faces. The color palette appears to be a touch to the muted side, perhaps a bit flat. This is not an action film so I don’t feel a pristine detail level or bright colors are absolutely necessary. It looks fine.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It is a good track that brings the important songs to life with a very good representation. Likewise, the dialogue always sounds crisp and clear, and that is always important, right? Surrounds are not awfully important here, but they show a little life here and there.

Extras. The disk has a commentary track from writer/director Abe Sylvia, who discusses many aspects of the film. He is a touch dry, but it is not a bad track. There is also a selection of deleted and extended scenes.

Bottomline. This movie plays a bit like a cross between Juno and Easy A. Not exactly, of course, but the feeling is there, for me. It has its moments, but again, feels a bit rushed and incomplete.

Mildly Recommended.

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