The young woman of the title is Danielle (Juno Temple, “The Three Musketeers”), the resident class slut of Norman East High School. She’s brought down a peg or two when her in-class behavior gets her sent to a class for special-needs students, where she’s partnered with “fat fuck” Clarke (Jeremy Dozier, TV’s “iCarly”) on a project to treat a bag of flour as if it were their child.
Thrown together by homework, Danielle realizes she isn’t alone in living miserably, in a trailer with a single mom (Milla Jovovich, “The Three Musketeers”) training to be a Mormon. Clarke, after all, has parents (country singer Dwight Yoakam and Mary Steenburgen, “The Help”) who refuse to accept their son is gay, believing trips to the shrink and a stint at military school can cure him. So the two students run away together in search of Danielle’s birth father, whom she’s never met, but has tracked to Fresno, Calif.
For the most part, “Dirty Girl” is a pretty decent dramedy, with broken-fourth-wall moments that flirt with buoyancy — for example, a running gag has the bag of flour’s Sharpied facial expression change depending on the mood. While some of the supporting performances verge on redneck cartoony, that’s not the case with the story’s two mismatched leads. The overweight Dozier gives a tough role his all, free of vanity, while Temple impresses, following a couple of indie films (“Cracks” and “Kaboom”) in which she did anything but.
Overall, strong goodwill was in the cards for this one, until two huge missteps took some chunks out of it. One finds cowboy hitchhiker Nicholas D’Agosto (“Final Destination 5”) stripping atop a car in an abandoned drive-in to an acoustic cover of The Outfield’s “Your Love,” that reeks of such camp, we thought it was played for laughs … only to learn otherwise in the next scene.
The other, larger offender is the ending, pulled straight from the file folder whose tab reads, “Predictable and Unrealistic, Down to Every Beat.” Sylvia should be ashamed for staging a closer so schmaltzy and mawkish, when most of what comes before fights against the conventional.
Still, I think he’s a gifted enough filmmaker with a strong sense of timing that I look forward to his second swing at bat. —Rod Lott