"Vulgar," exec produced by Kevin Smith and made by a bunch of his pals, has been getting some astonishingly poor reviews. I admit I wanted to see this movie after it received a virtually unprecedented no-star notice in the Los Angeles Daily News. This is the same crowd that thought "Black Knight" was a two-and-a-half star film. Promising, indeed. If you have to ask why that might entice me into a theater...you'll never learn. Let's just say that, at a time when "independent" films are basically minor-league studio projects, some of us tend to look for relief from Hollywood schmaltz wherever we can find it.In any event, the film deals with a struggling party clown (Smith regular Brian O'Halloran) who reinvents himself as a transvestite clown named Vulgar. His new career takes a disastrous turn when, at his first gig, he's gangraped by three men. Certainly, we have entered John Waters territory, and you can expect a good chunk of the critical establishment to head for the exits whenever clowns are forcibly sodomized.
Vulgar is indeed a very bad movie in many respects, though much of the badness--not all--stems from its nearly nonexistent budget. We're not talking about a shoestring production--it's barefoot. The sound is so lousy that in some scenes it's difficult to make out the dialogue. The mostly non-professional cast stumbles painfully over its lines. Even the writer-director, who stars as Vulgar's best friend, has trouble getting his own dialogue right.
It's a thoroughly clumsy movie. But all the same it's fascinatingly strange because, unlike Harmony Korine's adolescent-fantasy movies, it's so utterly unselfconscious, so uncalculated. What do you make of a movie that begins as a comedy, veers unexpectedly into rape melodrama (O'Halloran's mental disintegration is surprisingly convincing), and concludes in Death Wish mode? At the very least, Vulgar isn't boring. It is well paced and, in an innocently eccentric way, achieves something like originality.That doesn't make it a good movie, but rather an interesting trainwreck.