Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Dirty Love

Posted by CinemaPsycho on September 16, 2005

Directed by John Asher/written by Jenny McCarthy/starring Jenny McCarthy, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Carmen Electra, Kam Heskin/First Look Pictures

A Los Angeles photographer goes on a mission to make her ex-boyfriend jealous after being cheated on and dumped, and finds true love along the way.

Yes, this was actually written by Jenny McCarthy. That’s not a mistake in the credits. It was also directed by her husband, and apparently the two have split up recently. Should make for an interesting press junket, don’t you think?

Dirty Love is one of those movies that make you think – about committing suicide. Seriously folks, this may in fact be the worst movie I’ve ever reviewed for this site, which means it tops (or bottoms) the previous low of Bad Girls from Valley High. And that disaster went straight to DVD. This indie comedy somehow got picked up for a limited theatrical release beginning on the 23rd. I imagine First Look thinks they’ll sell a few DVDs to guys who were horny for McCarthy back in 1993. The publicists actually tried to compare this to my beloved Clueless, to which I can only respond: Whatever. (Seriously, how dare they???) It’s closer to a female Deuce Bigalow, and if that idea appeals to you, seek professional help immediately.

Jenny is one of those celebrities whose personality doesn’t seem to translate to the screen. Her problem is that she seems to suffer from a kind of variation on body dysmorphic disorder. But instead of being a pretty girl who thinks she’s ugly, McCarthy is a sex bombshell who thinks she’s the “cute, funny girl”. Her insistence on this borders on the pathologically obsessive – you can practically feel her desperation coming through in waves. “I’m not just a one-dimensional former Playboy Playmate! I’m funny, dammit! I’m really, really funny! See, I’ll prove it by making fart noises! I’ll write a book about how childbirth hurt my vagina! Why isn’t anybody laughing?”

This routine is OK for a few minutes on a talk-show appearance, but it’s not enough to sustain a half-hour sitcom, much less a 90-minute movie. McCarthy’s attempts at TV stardom have ranged from the mediocre (Jenny) to the excruciatingly awful (this summer’s The Bad Girl’s Guide). Her brief appearances in films ranging from Scream 3 to Scary Movie 3 have done nothing to convince anyone of her potential. Yet no one seems to have the guts to break it to her that she’s just not funny.

See, here’s the problem: no one wants to see an incredibly attractive woman discuss or mimic her bodily functions. Nor does anyone want to see such a woman pretend to be just like everyone else and have the same kinds of problems as everyone else. Men just want to see a hot girl being hot, and I think most women actually resent the implication that they’re all in the same boat. It’s like expecting me to believe that Brad Pitt has the same problems getting dates as your average bespectacled geek. Come on, we all know that’s not true. The reason previous bombshells ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Angelina Jolie have worked on screen is because they get that they’re way hotter than us mere mortals. They revel in their genetic good fortune; they play it up and use it to their advantage. Having those attributes and trying to pretend you don’t is just, well, insane.

A large part of the reason Dirty Love simply doesn’t work is because it’s a vehicle for the Jenny McCarthy image that she wants to perpetuate, not the Jenny McCarthy that actually exists. Her character, Rebecca, is a photographer who looks like a model, acts like a model and has friends who could easily be models. Why is she a photographer? Because people can’t relate to models. Photography is, like, a real job. Yet McCarthy still set the movie in the sordid and shallow world of LA showbiz. I guess she didn’t think this through.

Anyway, Rebecca has a studly male-model type fiancée who, of course, cheats on her and dumps her for another hot chick. That’s what guys like that do, because they can. That’s why you don’t date guys like that if you have any brains. So instead of realizing she got off the hook easily, Rebecca is crushed and sets out to make said fiancée jealous so he’ll want her back. This leads to what’s apparently intended to be a series of misadventures that are somehow supposed to be both hilarious and romantic in that “the heroine finds her destiny” sort of way. Instead, they just come off as a series of sketchy vignettes that only reveal how lame McCarthy’s sense of humor is.

Most of these interludes involve Rebecca’s encounters with stereotypical Hollywood executives and wanna-be’s and feature clumsy attempts at raunchy humor. Unfortunately, McCarthy’s comic sensibilities seem stuck in the 10th grade, and she doesn’t provide anything particularly new or interesting to justify the juvenile jokes. Various bodily fluids are mentioned and/or excreted, and the comic high point (if you can call it that) features a naked man with a large fish shoved up his ass. Which I imagine would be pretty damn painful (if not impossible), and led me to wonder, “why a fish, exactly? Why not a lamp or a small TV set or maybe a motorcycle?” I imagine this scene may have been written during or just after the summer of 2000, in which we experienced the comic delights of a chicken up a guy’s ass (Me, Myself and Irene) and a giant hamster up a guy’s ass (The Nutty Professor 2). If only McCarthy had pulled a funny script out of hers.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not the tastelessness of the humor that I object to. I enjoy a good dirty gag as much as anybody. It’s the fact that nothing in this entire movie is actually funny. This kind of comedy requires more than just willful “outrageousness” – it needs inspired ideas and skillful direction, and Dirty Love features neither. It’s just one lame, random punchline after another with barely any effort put into the set up of each gag. I thought Asher did a decent job with his road comedy Diamonds (which featured McCarthy in a small role as a prostitute), but here everything is staged with all the subtlety of a softcore porn movie on Cinemax (not to mention the bad lighting). There’s no sense of timing or rhythm in this movie – every single joke just lands with a loud, cold thud.

Not that the jokes were that great to begin with. The worst thing about Dirty Love is that McCarthy actually thinks she’s making some kind of deep, powerful statement about the quest to find true love in big, bad Hollywood. Never mind that she adds nothing original to this shopworn theme (the video stores are practically overflowing with low-budget indie romantic comedies set in LA, as if anyone outside the city really cares). Her view of the industry and the people that work within it is so relentlessly dated in a bad ‘70’s sitcom way. Every producer is a short, balding Jewish man who makes Woody Allen look like Charlton Heston, and every director is a fat, sleazy greaseball with a breast-implant obsession. I don’t doubt that those people are out there, but come on, give us something more inspired than that. There’s a ludicrious scene in which Carrie (Heskin, who could be appealing in better films), a vapid actress friend of Rebecca’s, tries to scam a director for a part in his latest movie in a bar, then gets upset and tells him off when he rebuffs her for a larger-chested woman. This is the part where we’re all supposed to raise our fists and yell “girl power!” Please. If she wants respect, how about auditioning like everyone else? What did she expect when she approached this guy out of the blue, a three-picture deal and a dozen roses? This is indicative of how misguided the whole movie is – we’re supposed to feel righteous indignation all of a sudden for someone who displays a complete and utter lack of dignity.

Then there’s Rebecca, who isn’t the most sympathetic protagonist either. As much as she complains about the men in Hollywood, she and her friends are every bit as shallow and superficial as they are. It’s difficult to feel sorry for someone who keeps making the same stupid mistake over and over again and blames everyone else for it. Her initial goal is an incredibly stupid one – to make her ex jealous by being seen in public with any man who comes along – and by the time she finally wises up, we’ve lost all interest in whether or not she finds happiness. Who cares? She’s done nothing to earn it, and we have no reason to think she deserves it.

At the end of the movie, Rebecca apparently “learns something”, much like Cher in Clueless (the only comparison I could possibly make to that much better, much more appealing movie). But not because of anything she says or does – because John (Thomas, taking a big step down from the American Pie movies), her brainy assistant, finally declares that he loves her. Which led me to ask “why?” because besides the fact that she looks like Jenny McCarthy, there’s literally nothing appealing about her. So suddenly she realizes this is the guy she should be with, even though they are completely different and have nothing in common, simply because he thinks he’s in love with her for whatever reason. Not that she even knew he existed before that.

So what does Rebecca learn from all this, and what can women learn from it by extension? They learn that once they’re tired of fucking around with handsome, shallow idiots, there will always be some poor dumbass around who’s hopelessly in love with them that they can fall back on when they get desperate. Nice. That’s the poisoned cherry on top of the whole shit sundae. Maybe some people will actually fall for that garbage, but for me that’s about as “romantic” as the fish in the guy’s rectum.

I hate to keep picking on McCarthy, but her limited skills as an actress are only magnified by comparison to the performance here by Electra. Believe it or not, Carmen Electra is the best thing about this movie (not that there’s much competition). She plays Michelle, a friend of Rebecca’s who is convinced that she’s black despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance, but she embodies the character in a way that McCarthy seems incapable of. She plays it so naturally, whereas McCarthy isn’t even convincing as a variation on her own image. It’s kinda sad to be overshadowed by Carmen Electra in your own movie, but there you have it. Now, if they’d actually given Michelle anything funny to say or do, she could have partially saved this thing. Instead, she’s just a tiny bright spot in an otherwise unbelievable mess.

In the end, if Dirty Love is remembered at all, it may be as the worst movie ever written by a former Playboy Playmate. And the first, and quite possibly the last. It’s the kind of movie that Tara Reid would be embarrassed to appear in, and that’s quite an achievement in bad filmmaking. There’s literally nothing redeeming about this movie. Even guys who are horny for McCarthy will be disappointed here – there is one shot of her breasts, but they happen to be covered in vomit at the time (and if that idea turns you on, seek professional help immediately). It’s that kind of bad movie, the kind that won’t even let you enjoy it on any level. It just sucks.

Alicia Silverstone, where are you when we need you the most?

*   9/16/05

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