A feeble teenage-outcast movie set in 1987, Dirty Girl exists primarily as a vehicle for first-time writer/director Abe Sylvia's favorite Reagan-era jams. Two Oklahoma high schoolers—slutty back-talker Danielle (Juno Temple, game as ever but dirtier, funnier, and better directed in Gregg Araki's Kaboom) and chubby, closeted Clarke (Jeremy Dozier)—lam it to Fresno, Calif. She hopes to reunite with her biological dad, and he hopes to escape further gay-bashings from his own father; their road trip provides both sub-sitcom emotional revelations about daddy damage and a Teena Marie sing-along. For a film that's supposed to be rooted in such a specific time and place, Sylvia isn't really concerned with details: Costumes, hair, and decor appear to be the work of That '70s Show interns; William H. Macy, as Danielle's Mormon soon-to-be stepdad, continuously muffs a Sooner State drawl. The adolescent protagonists' epiphanies are made even tinnier by the soundtrack, as Sylvia can barely stand to let two minutes pass without blaring Pat Benatar or Nu Shooz. And the filmmaker's obsession with '70s–'80s singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester, who serves as Clarke's Judy Garland, adds to the feeling that we are watching a movie structured solely by what was on his Walkman.
Concerned parents Mary Steenburgen and Dwight Yoakam.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., Oct. 21. Rated R. 90 minutes.