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1 review, 4 user ratings

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by Dr. Isaksson

"Oh come on, its not hard to be NORMAL"
5 stars

Lets move into the 1980's. The third decade in the career of John Waters. The crusted and rotten dust has settled from his previous film "Desperate Living". The putrid visions that haunted many softly into the back of the minds of the legions of fans who have reveled in the throws of their "Prince of Puke" have all been sitting in the back of the now dying ~Midnight Movie~ circuit, awaiting his next filmy endeavor. With this dawning new decade in the career of Waters came the need for a new outlook, according to John, the types of raunchy films he had been doing would no longer be an easy sale to the more corporate influenced theatre businesses. So instead of pushing the limit visually, Waters decided to assault a different sense. The sense of smell. And thus the birth of "Odorama" came to be. A very small and largely forgotten arrival that lingered less in its soapy pretensions than a fart from Victoria Principal. But ask yourself this please reader....Is it not better to be smelled just briefly once? Than never to have been smelled at all?

Perhaps I am getting too dramatic in my thoughts so let us get to the film. 1981's Polyester welcomes back one vastly important John Waters icon, the immensely evocative Divine in another film written especially for his unique talents. In the film Divine stars as the 'Polyester Queen', Francine Fishpaw, the most afflicted housewife of the Baltimore suburbs. Right from the first frame we witness our protagonist, the poor hapless Francine become the victim of neighborhood riots because of her husband Elmer's opening of an X-Rated movie house. Despite cries from neighborhood children to see Benji, Elmer's movie business thrives and he soon betrays Francine and their sacred marriage with his secretary, the skag-a-licious Sandra Sullivan (Mink Stole).

The drama doesn't stop there. Francine soon endures more heartache from her two children. Her daughter LuLu (Mary Garlington) is failing every subject at school, partying it up with her delinquent boyfriend BoBo (Stiv Bators) and dancing for the boys at lunch period for quarters. Her ambition, much to Francine's horror, is to drop out of school completely and dance at the Flaming Cave Lounge. Francine's son Dexter (Ken King), he has become quite aloof and angry and soon reveals a few twisted fetishes and addictions which further spin the Fishpaw household into disarray.

Along the bumpy suburbian pathway, Francine does get a breath of hope in the arms of a romantic stranger named Tod Tomorrow (Tab Hunter). His movie star good looks and slow southern accent works to tame Francine's sorrows but with her husband and domineering mother tormenting her and two beloved children running wild, Francine finds herself spiraling down into alcoholism and into what John Waters himself describes something akin to "Clarabelle the Clown having a breakdown".

Polyester was the first 'edgier' John Waters film I had been seen since his days of Hairspray and Cry Baby back in the late 80's and early 90's. I was definitely intrigued by the rougher tone and trashier outlook and found myself really finding the humor and enjoying the slightly more crazed atmosphere. It was certainly faster and more neurotic than the previous ones but also extremely festive. Extreme people being extremely festive. I did not know that the films BEFORE Polyester were even more repulsive and outrageous than this one but it was a nice way to start my downfall into the trash-a-thon rabbit hole.

Also great to see were the changes in the look of John's films. A new and much more campy lighting technique took the place of the dull and washed out lighting which was the result of his lack of budget in the earlier works. Waters wanted this film to look and feel like a Douglas Sirk film on its head. Sirk was a well loved director of heavy handed cheese melodramas in the 1950's and Polyester does catch that soft over-coloured look of his films. Minus the sweeter than sweet overtones mind you. I think it was only inevitable that Waters had to gently put the brakes on a great deal of all that had been visually grotesque and in its stead come up with films that contained fuller plots and faster situations all the while keeping his typical over the top characters and dialogue. A change has wafted in but its a good change.

PS. The DVD is always gonna be great for the commentary but its even more delightful for the Odorama card that you get. I was actually to scared to try it out the first time. Who wants to smell a random fart anyway. I gotta work up to that one.

"Polyester"is heart wrenching, hardcore drama with a full assortment of real-life trauma and despair. A full accomplished cast and a story full of twisting plots certainly places this film between the realms of the genius that is Joe Eszterhas and the crazed beauty that is David Lynch. I cannot help but imagine the two of these cinematic wizards hanging out together in a steam bath. Sweating out their luminous creativity. I ask you. What kind of smells would they create? Hmmmm... Maybe something a little bit like burning Polyester?

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originally posted: 05/02/06 08:00:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Sometimes funny, but a favorite of mine 3 stars
2/07/07 Glenn Soffen This place is glamorous! What a great scene! 5 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu Tab is pretty sexy dude 4 stars
9/10/04 tatum Divine's best performance in otherwise typical Waters flick 3 stars
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  29-May-1981 (R)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004

  29-Jul-1981 (18)

  29-Jul-1981 (M)

Directed by
  John Waters

Written by
  John Waters

  Tab Hunter
  Edith Massey
  David Samson
  Mary Garlington
  Mink Stole

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