This is the tale of the chequered life of Dawn Davenport (Divine). We commence with her teenage years, where she was still at school and rejecting the idea of doing homework out of hand, preferring to apply hairspray to her crowning glory. After being caught in class eating an enormous meatball sandwich, she was duly punished but didn't care because when she received the cha-cha heels she wanted for Christmas she was going to leave her parents far behind and be famous. Dawn gets her wish, but not in the manner she anticipated...
Female Trouble was the follow up to writer and director John Waters' Pink Flamingos, and if it hasn't stuck in the popular consciousness more strongly it's not because it's a lesser film. It doesn't have the most talked about ending in trash cinema, true, but at least the jokes are more consistent, as if Waters was really getting the hang of this filmmaking lark. Featuring the regular cast of these works, with David Lochary appearing for the last time, as usual with the early ones Waters was lucky to get performances from his actors that may have given new meaning to the word shrill, but at least showed they knew what was required of them - and Divine is as remarkable as he ever was.
It's easy to provide a list of highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view), but nothing here quite beats the sight of an affronted Dawn stomping her Christmas presents in rage when she doesn't get the cha-cha heels she wanted, and to top it all she flings the tree on top of her distraught mother. After that, there's one of the most novel sex scenes in movie history, where the running-away-from-home Dawn is picked up by a sleazy motorist and ends up being screwed by him on a mattress on a patch of wasteground - or he does when he eventually takes his trousers off. What makes this all the more unusual is that Divine is also playing the motorist, so is effectively having sex with himself.
After having the baby, we settle into the next phase of our anti-heroine's life where she gets a job and looks around for a man. She finds him in the form of hairdresser Gater (Michael Potter), whose Aunt Ida (the inimitable Edith Massey) is upset due to her wanting him to be gay... she will have her revenge. Episodic is the word for Waters' storyline, as he jumps forward yet again to see Dawn turning to crime and becoming friendly with beauticians Donald Dasher (Lochary) and his wife Donna (Mary Vivian Pearce) who want to snap photos of Dawn breaking the law in the name of beauty. And so it goes on, too much of it actually, as if Waters was so in love with his material that he didn't know when to stop. It is outrageous, and occasionally hilarious (Dawn's nightclub act that sees her gleefully trampolining and ripping a telephone directory in half), and resembles a twisted Joan Crawford or Lana Turner melodrama (Dawn has a bratty daughter - Mink Stole - who turns Hare Krishna to infuriate her) on a tiny budget. With Dawn as finally the only character with integrity, the filmmaker's purity of vision is quite something, marking him out as a true auteur.
Witty American writer/director, the chief proponent of deliberate bad taste in American films. His early efforts are little more than glorified home movies, including Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, but with the notorious Pink Flamingos Waters found his cult audience.