The Dirt

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on March 27, 2019

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Dear Erin Ownbey
Excited Partygoer

Dear Erin,

I know what it’s like to get excited over a new release. You act without thinking. Muscle memory takes over, and despite your better judgement, your finger makes the decision for you. Suddenly adrenaline hits and there’s no stopping. In my case, I’m watching something trashy like The Dirt. In your case, you’re spread eagle, squirting across the room at a party.

No judgement. I’m turning into a Netflix groupie myself. Over the past month or so, I’ve devoured several original movies the day they came out (Triple Frontier, High Flying Bird, Velvet Buzzsaw, etc). In this case, rather than looking forward to new daring work by an auteur, I was looking for a quick fix - cheap highs and easy thrills. And in that sense, the urine-soaked, boob fest of a Mötley Crüe biopic delivered. I consented to its promised pleasures, and so any embarrassment I feel now is completely self-induced.

You understand.

In fact, I take back everything bad I ever said about Bohemian Rhapsody. Compared to The Dirt, the Queen biopic actually feels worthy of Academy Awards. But that’s relative praise, and a reminder of just how hard it is to make this kind of movie work. There is scarcely a scene in The Dirt, or line of dialogue, that isn’t absolutely cringe-worthy - not unlike the band’s diarrhea-inducing music. There’s not a song or character in this film that is ever worthy of further consideration. But shit music for dirt bags in the 80s is almost worth romanticizing with all the woke babies policing every breath we take today. What I find harder to overlook is the piss-poor acting and filmmaking (a low-rent rip off of I, Tonya is maybe the most generous description of the film’s fourth-wall breaking style and sloppy cinematography).

That a movie called The Dirt doesn’t try to elevate the exploits of Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil and Mick Mars is actually not a fault. Rich Wilkes and Amanda Adelson took the band’s famously debauched auto-biography and wrote a film the fans expected - or at least, included some of the most outrageous anecdotes. There are no attempts to make the men seem more soulful than they were, or their quest more meaningful than the stripper sex chasing it was. In today’s political landscape, some people would consider that honesty respectable - even Presidential.

The fact the film casually includes punching a woman (played for laughs like she had it coming) and a brief detour into manslaughter (a fact they couldn’t not acknowledge), still leaves you to wonder what parts they felt weren’t forgivable enough to include. The only saving grace might have been the scene with Neil’s daughter in the hospital, though it didn’t earn the weight of its punch.

At the end of the day, this film is my textbook definition of a guilty pleasure. Too embarrassing to acknowledge, too awful to ignore. Mötley Crüe’s success in a nutshell. For the band, this is less a mea culpa than a mea crazy, just like the book. You know, “I did a thing I kind of regret but not really, so I wrote about it”.

I know the feeling.



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