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FEMALE TROUBLE, an early offering from the warped mind of John Waters, is one of the few comedy films I can think of that manages to have its cake and eat it. On the surface, it's a thoroughly deranged bad-taste comedy, populated with the most appallingly hilarious cast of screwed-up social misfits and dysfunctional lunatics outside of late-period Monty Python (think Mr and Mrs Git and the Garibaldi family, or Terry Jones using a loaf of bread to remove "cat's do" from his "stinking feet"), but on a deeper level it's a scabrous spoof on the idolatory nature of celebrity, the dogged pursuit of fame by talentless and charisma-free no-hopers, and the whole gruesome phenomena of the media slut and the fashion plate that rules pop culture just as much now as it did when this film was made - perhaps moreso, in fact. If I'm honest, however, the film does seem to run out of steam when David Lochary (a very underrated and much-missed cult actor) turns up as the super-precious media guru and proceeds to market Divine as the ultimate example of his twisted "crime is beauty" ideal, but only because of all the jaw-dropping, shockingly funny stuff that went before - during the course of my average day, just thinking of Divine literally "f***ing himself" on that grubby mattress (or 'Dawn Pigpork' and the repulsive Gator pouring bile and invective on a silently smouldering Taffy, or Edith Massey getting one of her pudgy paws hacked off, or Divine's awe-inspiring Christmas day tantrum, or the inspired use of the goofy oldie "D-I-G means look") makes me giggle like a goon. FEMALE TROUBLE, moreso than PINK FLAMINGOES (which shot itself in the foot by being slightly TOO authentically disgusting for comfort), should be compulsory viewing - or punishment - for any swollen-headed, supersensitive, quasi-intellectual college boy (or girl) who balks at the Carry On films and the Benny Hill Show. Very often, the more outrageous and revolting the subject matter, the more shamefully hysterical the joke is. One of the enduring facts about bad-taste humour is that it SHOULDN'T make you laugh, but it DOES. And escape valves for all that compassion burnout engendered by (insert your favourite 'good cause' here) don't come much stronger than the work of John Waters.
God bless John Waters. He's made some of the best, crudest feel-good
movies, and this is one of his crowning achievements. It's amazing how
his film, ugly-looking and full of lipstick-smeared freaks, can feel
positive and upbeat; while he's mocking everything in sight, he doesn't
stand back and protect himself with irony or winks -- he jumps right in
there, and that involvement, that energy, is easy to see and feel. It's
amazing that he can feature masturbation with needle-nose pliers,
beating a child with a chair, a game of "car accident," and Divine
literally screwing himself and not have it be off-putting.
The very idea that Waters uses a fat transvestite with a beehive hairdo to illustrate his scorn for school shows he's not so interested in subtlety. And Divine is awesome, as always, his prissy, gravely scream -- a freak you want on your side. This is one of Waters' best satirical attempts -- there are digs at hippies and Hare Krishnas, and two scenes in particular are very prophetic: the gay encouraging, and the killing for art. Waters even mocks his own shameless exhibitionism in the testimony of the Dashers. 9/10
"Female Trouble" is one of John Water's best movies, probably the best of
his pre-respectable (read: pre-"Hairspray") flicks. Posessing a much more
strong (and bizarre) plotline than the also brilliant "Pink Flamingos",
"Female Trouble" documents the exploits of Dawn Davenport, a horrible
juvenial delinquent turned criminal played by the unbeatable Divine.
This was Water's last film to features his entire original ensemble of actors (Divine, David Lochary, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pierce, and Edith Massey) and each has a memorable and hilarious role. Stole steals the show as Dawn's "retarded" 14 year old daughter, but Edith Massey is also great as Aunt Ida, who constantly urges her nephew Gator to turn gay ("The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life!").
The scene where Dawn hits Ida on the head with a fish is worth the whole price of admission. Recommended!!!
Female Trouble marks the last time the Waters' Dreamland crew works
together. Divine plays two characters Dawn Davenport and Earl. This has
to be Divine's finest hour in acting. Waters' subject matter and themes
presented in this film still hold true to this day. This is my favorite
John Waters film. He balances the humor and gross out set pieces
perfectly. They compliment each other instead of overpowering one
another. John Waters obsession with serial killers and their ilk is
strongly represented here.
Female Trouble was shot on 16mm , in color and has been shown in several different running times.
John Waters fans usually acknowledge "Desperate Living" as John Waters' true masterpiece of filmmaking. Just one problem with that film: no Divine! Sure, "Desperate Living" is a great film, but Divine is just someone that goes hand-in-hand with Waters (like Joe Dallesandro with Paul Morrissey). Even though "Female Trouble" is lesser known than "Desperate Living" or "Pink Flamingos", it is better than those two films put together! John Waters' first film with an actual coherent script and plotline, Divine gives the performance of her career as Dawn Davenport, the juvenile delinquent turned full-time criminal. All of the best Waters alumni are here (only missing later star Jean Hill) and are their best: David Lochary as Donald Dasher, Mary Vivian Pearce as Donna Dasher, Mink Stole as Taffy, Cookie Mueller and Susan Walsh as Dawn's sleazy cohorts, Susan Lowe as a bitchy secretary, and last but definitely not least, Edith Massey as bizarro Aunt Ida! Anyone even remotely interested in why Waters is world-reknowned as the Prince of Puke should start here; it's not too mainstream for Waters fanatics and not TOO bizarre for the mainstream crowd who love him for "Hairspray" and "Pecker". "Female Trouble" features Waters' best writing to date (50% of the lines are instant classics), best costume design, best set design, and best gimmick (Divine raping "himself"!). Even though this is the pinnacle of John Waters' career, it is still pretty hard to find on video. A re-release is in the works for sometime this year to coincide with Waters' new movie "Cecil B. Demented", followed by a welcome video release. This new version will include enhanced video and audio quality and plenty of long-lost scenes!!! A European cut is available from Castle Video, featuring much of the lost footage promised for this year's re-release!
I am at a complete loss to understand why this film was not nominated
for an Oscar for costuming, makeup and set decoration. It had the most
outrageous costuming that I have ever seen. The sets were so hideous
that they made me nauseous. The makeup was beyond belief.
That was the good things about the film that featured an outrageous star in Divine, a transvestite that played Dawn Davenport. He was so over the top that I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
This is the first John Waters (Hairspray, Pecker) film that I have seen. He is definitely on the cutting edge in outrageous humor, horror, and satire.
This film on the outrageous cult of celebrity is no more outrageous than the current obsession in the media with Paris Hilton.
If you haven't seen a John Waters film, check out the Sundance Channel for this one.
This film is my favorite of all time! All of the great elements of John Waters' films mesh together perfectly in this hilarious romp that operates around the theme of 'crime is beauty.' All of the classic John Waters' actors are here, and most of them give their best performances. John Waters has said that this film is the 'ultimate Divine vehicle', and he's right. Her look literally changes every ten minutes as she mutates from a teenage hair hopper with an attitude to an unwed, abusive mother, to crime fashion model to death row inmate. Divine also has a small male role as the father of her own illegitimate child. Edith Massey, my personal favorite actress, gives her funniest and best realized performance as Aunt Ida, the bitter, veangful fag hag who lives next door. This is not the most accesible of Waters' films, and truthfully, this probably isn't the one to start with if you're not yet a fan (I would recommend Polyester or Hairspray in that case), but if you want to see an early work thats not quite as gross as the others, check it out! Waters himself says that this is his favorite of his underground films.
Although John Waters is best known for "Pink Flamingos", his two best
films are "Female Trouble" and "Desperate Living". Why? Well, as far as
"Female Trouble" is concerned, it is the film that invented Dawn
Davenport (Divine), one of the trashiest white schoolgirl tramps ever
to strut her stuff in a pair of cha-cha heels. Dawn's amazing life is
documented in this film and it's a cracker from beginning to end. You
will laugh, you will cry, you will vomit and you will die as you behold
the deliciously disgraceful antics of the indefatigable queen of crime
All the delightful Waters regulars (the achingly gorgeous Edith Massey, the fantastically filthy David Lochary, the marvellous Mink Stole and the putrid Ms. Mary Vivian Pearce) are paraded about like proud circus exhibits as Waters' weaves a rags to bitches story of one woman's rise from the suburbs of Baltimore to her fall in a city without pity.
Certainly this was one of the first films to explore the issue of criminals becoming celebrities. Dawn Davenport's ascent to the ceiling of crime is hilarious and perceptive and Waters clearly knew where all this was going. For mine, Waters lost his zing after "Desperate Living" when his movies got softer and his characters started turning up on TV shows like "Wally George", "Jerry Springer" and the earlier "Oprah" eps. What was fresh when Waters started doing it felt redundant when he kept doing it into the eighties and nineties.
Divine is, was and always will be a legend, and I consider myself fortunate that I once spent half an hour chatting with the great man and actor. Vincent Peranio's production design is spectacularly obnoxious and Van Smith's costumes, as always, are knitted from the threads of trash heaven.
Waters does not put a foot wrong and ends proceedings on a surprisingly emotional note.
Funnily enough, around the time that Divine sits in the crib with the pile of dead fish I started thinking about the words of the Bomb Squad's Hank Shocklee - "If they want noise, let's give them NOISE!" Yes, friends, Waters is the queer Public Enemy, tying identity to culture, cranking the most alienating elements of same to 11, and losing great chunks of his own demographic in the spectacular, chaotic process. This was made right off the midnight-movie success of "Pink Flamingos", and presumably this facilitated a budget, and presumably this led to the extra notch of competence that keeps the movie barreling forward from beginning to end - there's even an original theme song, plus thirty glorious seconds of Nervous Norvus singing "H-I-P". In most underground movies a scene featuring the lead actor, in two roles, raping himself for two full minutes - and THEN taking off his pants - would be the climax, not the inciting incident! And Edith "Flav" Massey yelling "NO I don't want any god damn eggs!" is an even better inversion than the new Bond's martini line. A triumphant cinematic masterpiece.
This is John Waters at his zenith. In ten minutes time this film has
more hilarious, outrageous humor than most other underground, drive in films
do in their entirety. Like with PINK FLAMINGOES it deserves accolades for
it's sheer tasteless audacity. It is consistently funny, unrelentingly
perverse, obnoxious, and ugly. Just like you would expect. It also has
Waters film trademark of having the actors shout their lines instead of
This is much more of a solid satire than many may originally presume. In some ways it was way ahead of it's time. It keenly shows the cult of celebrity and the desperation some have to obtain it. How skewered the famous and infamous have become and our over emphasis on beauty. It also shows how the media exploits the desperate and causes the distorted image.
Above all though this is really Divine's vehicle. She (he) steals every scene she is in. Even just watching her do modeling poses or dancing on a bar top is hilarious. She also writes and performs the opening song and even plays a male character that has sex with her female character (very well edited). There's also one inglorious moment where you even see the close up of his genitals.
For those with the right mentality this is pure entertainment. It's also has a perverse brilliance that has lost non of it's edge of potency.
8 out of 10
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