The 1980s brought us big hair, irrepressible fashion and neon-coloured, bubblegum pop. This is displayed to some extent in Dirty Girl, providing a few great costumes and a fun soundtrack at times, while trying to pay tribute to the endearing teen classics of the era – but in a way that is more Heathers than Pretty in Pink.
Set in 1987, Dirty Girl follows the story of Danielle in her search for her father and, ultimately, her place in the world. Along the way she unexpectedly befriends Clarke, an overweight and gay social recluse with whom she is paired up in a class project. The two strike up an unlikely friendship, which leads to a road trip with, of course, lessons learnt along the way.
The coming together of two characters so opposite to each other is nothing new, but it is played with warmth and honesty by the two leads, Juno Temple and Jeremy Dozier. The cast breathe life into what could easily have been very mundane characters and it is an utter delight to see Mila Jovovich cast as a Southern-belle mother with a tempestuous teenage daughter. William H. Macy is given a rather uninspired role and it is not much different from other work he has done, but his character’s bearing and opinions rile Danielle and instigate a lot of the comedy.
As Danielle and Clarke take to the road and journey across the U.S. it jumps into the category of road-trip movie and strongly evokes the feeling of a teen version of Thelma and Louise, with its own attempt at a shirtless Brad Pitt in the form of hitchhiker Joel. The ending, however, is contrived and although it fleshes out most of its characters and allows them to grow, it lacks the darkness which would have made it pack a more powerful punch. Overall, it is a sweet story whose emotions give the film its dramatic heft, while the relationships provide its entertaining wit.