Abe Sylvia’s 2010 film Dirty Girl stars Juno Temple as a highly sexualized and “doesn’t take shit from no one” high school teenager named Danielle in late 1980s suburban Oklahoma. While living with her mother, Danielle spends her time at school pursuing her male schoolmates for her next sexual conquest, a behavior we soon learn stems from Danielle’s desire to maintain power over the people around her. Her female classmates are scared of her, her teachers distantly judge her, and all of the boys hope for a chance to have sex with her. Though it appears that Danielle enjoys being sexual, this is mostly because it makes her feel in control.
The main plot of the movie centers on Danielle’s new friendship with social outcast “Clarke” when they are assigned to practice being parents to a bag of flour they dress up and name “Joan”. Clarke is quiet, overweight, and gay, a seemingly undesirable combination of traits for 1980s Oklahoma. However, when he begins his friendship with Danielle, both of them realize there is more to life than the cards they have been dealt. Deciding to drive to California, Danielle aims to find her biological father, and Clarke accompanies her in order to escape the wrath of his abusive father after he finds Clarke’s stash of gay porn. Along the way, Clarke has his first sexual experience with another man and embraces, rather than hiding his sexuality. Danielle meets her father and faces the realization that she does not need to rely on the men in her life for happiness.
Dirty Girl was Sylvia’s first attempt at directing and writing and it shows in the blatant stereotypes and somewhat shallow character development, especially in the adult characters of the movie. Additionally, the issue of female sexuality is handled in a careless manner. Danielle’s character begins the film indulging and flaunting her sexuality, using her body and attitude as weapons for acceptance. By the end of the film she is dressing more conservatively, wearing less make-up, and talking to people in a polite and softened manner. The reasons for this can be assumed to follow the ingrained stereotype of “resolved daddy issues = purity = conservative dress and submissive attitude,” but the change occurs suddenly and does not feel natural to the character of Danielle.
This film has some really fun moments and one delicious, yet brief strip tease by actor Nicholas D’Agosto. It also features Dwight Yoakam as Clarke’s homophobic father, Mary Steernburgen as Clarke’s mother, Milla Jovovich as Danielle’s mother, William H. Macy as Danielle’s mother’s boyfriend, and Tim McGraw as Danielle’s father. Though it is an entertaining and easy film to watch, it is not necessarily a “must see.”