Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Female Trouble

Written, directed, shot, co-edited, co-composed, and produced by John Waters, Female Trouble is the story of a young woman’s life from a bratty teenager to an insane mass murderer as it all relates from her parents’ refusal to buy her cha-cha high heels as a Christmas present. The film is an unconventional portrayal of a woman’s life as her desire to be famous or infamous eventually leads to all sorts of trouble. Starring Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Edith Massey, and Cookie Mueller. Female Trouble is an outrageously wild and exhilarating film from John Waters.

The film is about the life of Dawn Davenport (Divine) who would gain notoriety through acts of crime, being a model for a freakish art couple, and creating all sorts of trouble all because her parents didn’t get cha-cha high heels for her during Christmas when she was a troubled teenager. It’s a film with a simple premise as John Waters creates a story that play into this character’s life from a bratty teenager who doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere into society and ultimately gets accepted through her love of sex and violence. It starts off with Davenport in high school not giving a shit about homework or anything as she runs away from home on Christmas when the present she receives from her parents isn’t cha-cha high heels.

There, she meets and gets raped by a man named Earl (Divine) while stealing his wallet and have his child in Taffy whom she would grow to dislike. She would marry a hairdresser in Gater (Michael Potter) as the marriage is tumultuous mainly because Gater is gay as his aunt Ida (Edith Massey) forced the marriage upon them. Davenport would divorce Gater as she meets the art freaks Donald and Donna Dasher (David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce, respectively) who would make her into a model much to the dismay of Ida and Taffy (Mink Stole).

Waters’ direction is largely straightforward in the compositions he creates yet it is the outlandish presentation of Davenport’s world as she lives in and around Baltimore, Maryland that adds to the film’s charm. While there are some wide shots in some of the presentation including Davenport walking on the streets of Baltimore modeling and posing and a stage show in the film’s climax, much of the direction has Waters use medium shots and close-ups to play into Davenport’s antics and misadventures that include her getting raped or just wreaking havoc.

Serving as the film’s cinematographer and co-editing the film with Charles Roggero, Waters keeps much of the visual ideas straightforward while employing some jump-cuts for some of the film’s chaotic and violent moments. Even in the scene where Davenport gets raped as Waters also employ moments that are there to shock that include some of the violent acts that Davenport commits though some of it is justified. Waters also maintains this approach to offbeat humor that can be dark but it also has that outrageous element where the film never takes itself seriously. Overall, Waters crafts a dangerous yet compelling film about the life of a woman who becomes violent and insane all because her parents didn’t get her cha-cha high heels for Christmas.

Art director Vincent Peranio does amazing work with the look of the apartment that Davenport lives in as well as the new look it’s given when she becomes successful as well as the lavish home of the Dashers. Costume/makeup designer Van Smith does fantastic work with the clothes that Davenport wears as it play into her evolving style as well as the ultra-tight leather clothes that Ida wears while the makeup is also outrageous including the look Davenport would have after an incident caused by Ida. The special effects work of Ed Peranio is terrific as it help play into some of the violence and chaos that Davenport creates that add to the film’s shock value.

The sound work of Bob Maier is superb for capturing the natural sounds as well as other sound effects to play into the raucous tone of the film. Music by John Waters and Bob Harvey is wonderful for its mixture of raunchy blues and jazz to play into the film’s offbeat humor that includes the title song sung by Divine while its music soundtrack feature an array of music from Gene Autry, Ruby Wright, Chuck Rio & the Originals, the Frogmen, Bill Black’s Combo, Jimmy Drake, and a couple of classical music pieces by Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Channing Wilroy as a prosecutor, Hilary Taylor as the young Taffy, George Figgs, Paul Swift, and Ed Peranio as a trio of friends of Davenport at the salon and other gatherings, Cookie Mueller and Susan Walsh as a couple of Davenport’s cohorts in their respective roles in Concetta and Chiclette Flair who both engage in criminal activities, and Michael Potter as Davenport’s husband Gater who is also Ida’s nephew as he struggles with his sexuality but also his frustrations towards Davenport and Taffy. Edith Massey is fantastic as Ida as Gater’s fat aunt who likes to wear leather as she despises Davenport and would unknowingly play into her ascent.

David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce are brilliant in their respective roles as the art couple Donald and Donna Dasher as two people who find something in Davenport and exploit her for their own gain but also enable her outrageous behavior to the point that it becomes too much. Mink Stole is excellent as Davenport’s daughter Taffy as a teenager/adult as a young woman wearing undergrown dresses as she is frustrated by her mother as she tries to find herself and deal with neglect she endures from her mother. Finally, there’s Divine in a phenomenal performance in the dual role of the protagonist Dawn Davenport and her rapist Earl Peterson. In the role of the latter, Divine provides a sleaziness to the character of Peterson as he’s a slob as well as a drunk that has no morals for anything or anyone. In the role of Davenport, Divine just adds that element of energy and liveliness to a character that is repulsive in her violent actions and bratty behavior but also has a charm that is just insatiable as it is one of Divine’s iconic performances.

Female Trouble is an incredible film from John Waters that features a spectacular leading performance from Divine. Along with its superb ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, playful music score, and bordering the line of provocative and shock. The film is a fascinating exploration into the life of a woman with a thirst for notoriety and violence all because she never got cha-cha high heels for Christmas. In the end, Female Trouble is a sensational film from John Waters.

John Waters Films: (Mondo Trash) – Multiple Maniacs - Pink Flamingos – (Desperate Living) – Polyester – (Hairspray) – (Cry-Baby) – (Serial Mom) – (Pecker) – (Cecil B. Demented) – (A Dirty Shame) - (Liarmouth)

© thevoid99 2020


Brittani Burnham said...

I haven't seen many of John Water's films. I've read a lot about Pink Flamingos but not so much about this one. I'll have to put one of these on a Blind Spot list.

Paula said...

Thank you for all the work and enthusiasm you put into your blog. I appreciate this review of Female Trouble. It's one of the great American films of the 1970s, a scathing satire on art, beauty, fame, and media-driven hype that is just as relevant today as it was almost a half century ago.
Keep writing Steven, you have a unique voice and I love your sense of humor.