John Waters’ “Female Trouble” is as unique a cinematic viewing experience as anyone is likely to have. It is horridly constructed, crudely edited, poorly shot, horrendously over-acted and badly written, and yet it’s the most entertaining bad film since Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space”!
The film stars Divine as Dawn Davenport, a rough young upstart of a Baltimore juvenile delinquent who kicks the plot into motion when she wakes up Christmas morning, and to her horror, doesn’t receive Cha-Cha heels from her parents under the tree! “Nice girls don’t wear Cha-Cha heels,” spout her parents. After an abusive bit of reaction toward her mother, Dawn is off.
Soon, she meets up with a dirty, disgusting old trucker (also Divine!), and they go into a vacant lot and have sex on a dirty old mattress. (Notice the neat detail that the trucker doesn’t actually have his pants unbuckled when they’re supposedly cumming, as well as the disgusting and unfortunate physical evidence of something on the back of the trucker’s underwear – when he does finally undo his pants!).
Dawn grows up and has a daughter, Taffy (the delightful Mink Stole) and raises her on her own. She soon marries a hairdresser whose Aunt Ida (Edith Massey, a longtime friend of Waters) is convinced is a homosexual and who is always being set up on blind dates with flaming young men.
Dawn’s delinquency continues into her 20s and possibly early 30s (it’s an EPIC!) as she and her high school dropout friends decide to rob people and start a crimewave. Soon, Dawn meets up with the owner of the hair salon, an obviously gay man who is married to a rather hoity-toity woman. They are obsessed with capturing “the beauty of crime” on film and enlist Dawn as their photographic ingenue (Late in the film, Divine looks somewhat akin to a fat version of Amy Winehouse! Uncanny!)…
Meanwhile, Taffy and Aunt Ida both cultivate their individual hatreds of Dawn in their own ways, and I will leave it to you to discover exactly what that entails.
Writer-director Waters (“Pink Flamingos,” “Pecker”) has never been a particularly adept student of cinema or even an apt director when it comes to simple things like framing, editing, performances, etc. But he can write a script that tells a story with a structure (if a simple one): beginning, middle and end.
This film has some huge (tasteless) laughs as well, including Ida trying to convince a somewhat wayward Taffy: “You don’t have to be a Hairy Crishner — If you change your mind, you can come live with me and be a lesbian!”
My favorite line of this or (possibly) any Waters film has to be, however, when Taffy is exposed to the hairdresser stepfather’s penis (which Waters shows as one of two head-on examples of male genitalia in this now NC-17 rated classic). She looks appalled (rightfully so) and a young Mink Stole utters: “I wouldn’t suck that thing if I was suffocating and it was full of oxygen!”
Waters’ film is ultimately the most entertainingly awful film you’re ever likely to see, and that’s saying something!