A review of “A Dirty Shame” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: NC-17 for graphic language, sexuality and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes



Lust is blowin’ in the wind in this raunchy bedroom farce sprung from the fertile mind of perverse writer/director John Waters.

“Let’s Go Sexin”!  That’s the cry heard ‘round Baltimore as its conservative residents succumb to the amoral charms of sexual healer Ray-Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville).  Or is it the freak accidents resulting in mutating head injuries that have townsfolk in a state of carnal rapture?

The newest member of Ray-Ray’s libidinous congregation is Pinewood Park and Pay’s own Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman), a cranky housewife whose lovin’ husband Vaughn (Chris Isaak) can’t get any and whose stripper daughter Caprice, aka Ursula Udders (Selma Blair) is under house arrest for nude and disorderly conduct.

A mild concussion has Sylvia in a fiery flame of desire that can’t be quenched by ordinary means.  Sylvia makes a spectacle of herself at her mother-in-law’s nursing home, doing a scandalous Hokey-Pokey turned Hootchie-Cootchie that has pacemakers short circuiting.  But Sylvia’s bewildering sexual displays are peanuts compared to the rest of Ray-Ray’s clan – eleven bizarre fetishists who intend to usher in a brand new age of erotic bliss.

A Dirty Shame is vintage John Waters, a sexual romp so over-the-top that genuine laughs work it side-by-side with head-scratching astonishment.  Beguiling phrases describing odd acts of fornication tumble from the actors’ mouths in a torrent of lascivious and imaginative splendor.  Who knew there were words for such things?

The plot centers on Sylvia’s sexual sobriety and her safe return to the puritanical ethics of her pre-concussive self. Add to the loosely constructed narrative the anti-libertines who support “neuter normality” and Ray-Ray’s quest for divine Resursexion and you’ve got yourself a dilly of a perverted parody.

Only Tracy Ullman could do Waters this proud.   She and Knoxville are the yin and yang of this profane comical farce that travels well beyond suggestion and gives fresh definition to bad taste.