Wednesday, October 18, 2006

John Water's Cry-baby

Cry- baby (1990) is a spoof of 50’s teeny bopper musicals. It was conceived, written and directed by that twisted mind of a genius, John Waters, known for movies like Hairspray, and Serial Mom. Like most of his movies, this movie is highly stylized (think 50’s tv show’s Leave it to Beaver and that one with Mayberry and the sherriff). Cry-baby features a multitude of twisted and disturbed archetypal yet quirky characters. This movie has a rather simple plot, boy meets girl, boy can’t have girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. But it still has a special little shine that makes it worth watching. Aside from the constant onslaught of 50’s music and the detailed period costumes and settings, the one thing that really carries this movie is the satire and gross (although mostly not in a vulgar sense) that is characteristic of John Waters.

The movie features a number of diverse characters, in particular Cry-baby (Johnny Depp) and Allison (Amy Locane). Crybaby, a charactature of a young Elvis, is a juvenile delinquent from the local trailer park (Turkey Point), whose parents were executed (he even has a tattoo of a electric chair). He leads a gang called the Drapes, and his inbred family consists of such quirky charters as grandma and her husband uncle Belvedere (Iggy Pop, also an excellent punk rocker). Allison , on the other hand is a sweet girl with a “good” boyfriend, Baldwin (Steven Mailer), whose Grandmother (Polly Bergen) is “the role model for all squares everywhere”. Both are orphans, which is one item that bonds the two characters.

There are a number of other supporting characters that are notable. Look for Ricky Lake as the young pregnant mother of two comically cute adult-like kids (Jessica Raskin and Jonathan Benya), T as the father of Hatchet Face (Kim McGuire), a rather ugly member of Cry-baby’s gang, and Tracy Lords (attempting to start a legitimate acting career) as another member of the Drapes. Another interesting character, a foreign exchanged student from the Netherlands, appears in a funny scene between Traci Lord’s character and her idiot “hip”, “enlightened” parents (Patricia Herst and David Nelson).

The plot of the movie follows Cry-baby's pursuit of Allison, and his arrest and release. It seems to be secondary, to the action, comedy, and musice of the movie. In the begining of the movie Alison's gradmother is holding a singing contest. Allison's boyfriend sings "Life would be a dream", followed by Alison her self who sings "Teenage prayer". On the other side of town the Rickets are having thier own show out at Turkey Point. Cry-baby sings an Elivis style song. All the music is lip-synched which is obvious after watching the end of bunny hop sequence in front of Allisons house.

There's a lot of symbolism and classic 50's elements in this movie. In one of the opening scenes an air raid siren sounds and the squares all hide under tables until the all clear. The rickets represent the bad side of town. They are lusty inbread white trailer trash who wear leather jackets and ride motorcyles and like to fight. In contrast, Allison's group, the squares are almost a sexual well bred society types. The Rickets dance the jitterbug infront of a confederate flag with negros, while the squares go to singing contest in a house that looks like a church. One of the most pivital scenes is fight between the Rickets and the squares. It's this duality that makes the film so endering.

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