Pecker * * * *
Director: John Waters.
Screenplay: John Waters.
Starring: Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor, Mary Kay Place, Mark Joy, Martha Plimpton, Brendan Sexton III, Jean Schertler, Lauren Hulsey, Patricia Hearst, Bess Armstrong, Mink Stole, Mo Fischer.
It’s hard to describe director John Waters and his idiosyncratic style but if I had to try, I’d compare him to David Lynch on amphetamine’s. He’s done some seriously wacky comedies over the years. Some of which been referred to as “deliberate exercises in ultra-bad taste“. He had been around since the 1960′s before making a name for himself with “Hairspray” in 1988. An early Johnny Depp film – “Cry Baby” followed and then he directed Kathleen Turner in the hilarious “Serial Mom“. Those who have heard of him will know what to expect. Those who haven’t should be warned; Waters certainly doesn’t water down his humour.
A young man named “Pecker” (Edward Furlong) who works at a Baltimore sandwich shop also has a real talent for taking photographs. He’s forever snapping things that most people wouldn’t even think of. When a New York art dealer (Lili Taylor) sees his work, he becomes an overnight sensation in the art world.
As mentioned, Waters’ films are somewhat like the lighter side to the nightmares of Lynch. He has the same off-beat and occasional surreal approach but rather than delve into the darker recesses of the subconscious, he plays it all for laughs. His more recent efforts have not been entirely successful and his brand of uncouth and crass humour will certainly not appeal to everyone but Pecker is one of his most accomplished and audience friendly pieces. Where he excels is in his array of very colourful characters – and this film has plenty of them.
Pecker’s family are a real bunch dysfunctional delights; his mother Joyce (Mary Kay Place) likes to accessorise the fashion of homeless people; his father Jimmy (Mark Joy) is an advocate for the public showing of pubic hair being made illegal; his grandmother ‘Memama’ (Jean Schertler) is a ventriloquist with a statue of the virgin Mary; his younger sister Little Chrissy (Lauren Hulsey) has an addictive personality, that begins with sugar before moving onto Ritalin and snorting vegetables and his older sister Tina (Martha Plimpton) runs a gay bar where “teabagging” (the slapping of testicles on a person’s forehead) is a custom that’s expected within the establishment. Pecker himself is just a naive, but likeable, photographer who captures all this mayhem on his 35mm camera – and this is only his family. There are many others, that include his kleptomaniac friend Matt (Brendan Sexton III) and characters that dry hump washing machines on spin cycles. By now, you’ll gather that Waters’ bad taste is still alive and well but what makes it all the more hysterical is that the actors all play it straight, making the zany situations that befall them all the more entertaining. Waters, most certainly, depicts this Baltimore slice-of-life with real zest and zaniness and, at times, his sheer audacity and outrageousness is gut-wrenchingly funny but while all this is going on, he still manages to take a pop at the pretentious, snooty-nosed, yuppies of the New York art scene.
As a self confessed Waters fan, I greatly enjoyed this lighthearted, quirky gem. It will not be a comedy that will appeal to everyone but if you enjoy your humour a little more on the risqué and surreal side, then this should do nicely.