PECKER

4 Stars
Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 87 minutes
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I have longed to see John Waters’ “Pecker,” and I must say, it’s a beautiful and wondrous thing. Techno and rap songs will be sampling this movie for decades to come. It’s mighty good to see the new school experienced filmmaker Waters call upon the old school Waters to give the finger to a new generation of snobs and prudes. White Trash – 1, New York art world – 0.
Edward Furlong is Pecker. He received his moniker from his habit of pecking at his food, though we rarely see him eat. Dad’s (Mark Joy) bar is losing all of its business to the angry dyke strip bar across the street. Little sis Chrissy (Lauren Hulsey) is either smacked out or jonesing for processed sugar all the time. His other sister Tina (Martha Plimpton) tends a rough trade gay bar, and girlfriend Shelley (Christina Ricci) is a little too serious about her job in a laundry mat. It just gets weirder from there.
Pecker photographs everything with a camera he found in his mother’s thrift shop. Teaching us art is where you find it, he has his first showing in the diner where he works. Up to now, this could have been a pre-Polyester movie, but now we reach the point. Art dealer Lili Taylor appears and whisks Pecker and his family to New York for a spectacular and lucrative showing of his work. After the trauma/joy of that experience, the family must return to Baltimore to deal with the repercussions of sudden fame as everyone they know sees the published pictures of themselves in sometimes incriminating acts.
I can’t do this film justice by description. The devil is in the details, and he’s everywhere in this film. The joy of a Waters film is feeling naughty just for watching it. Pecker’s grandmother speaks with a plastic Virgin Mary doll and his sister calls all gay men Mary. The film demonstrates for America what “tea-bagging” is. Waters brilliantly skewers the pretensions of the New York art world and culture, and uses real people from that world in the process. Not only do you see Pecker’s fawned over photos, but you see how he got them, often posed.
It was amazing to see Plimpton, Taylor and Ricci, three generations of sensitive “it” girls, all acting together. The underused Plimpton, particularly, is unhinged and smokes the other two. Waters can cast whomever he wants now. I always guess which part Divine would play if alive, but here, he could have played anybody other than Pecker. Imagine the possibilities.



Posted on September 28, 1998 in Reviews by
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