Dirty Beautiful

Dirty Beautiful [2015] is writer/director Tim Bartell’s first feature film. The film tells the story of David, an aspiring writer, as he attempts to make an honest girlfriend of Kat, a homeless prostitute. This clearly sounds like a disaster and the film proves it to be, but with a closer look, the film is really a story about the lengths people go through for companionship.

This is a film that relies heavily on its leads. The script is great (despite some cliches) but without top notch acting, it would fall flat. Both leads have outstanding timing, delivering each blow so naturally you’d think their story was real.  A lot of praise has been given to Jordan Monaghan, who is indeed perfect as Kat, a boisterous alcoholic with no ambition, but at times, she feels like a one-note character. It isn’t until she drops the drunk girl act that I feel an honest performance. My hat really goes off to an earnest Ricky Mabe as our insatiably lonely protagonist. His performance is subtle when juxtaposed to Monaghan’s and carries Woody Allenesque neuroses. His character is irrationally likable; he makes poor decisions throughout the film and is really quite pathetic, yet somehow you feel for him and want to appease his loneliness.

The Taming of the Shrew. I can’t help but notice a resemblance between Dirty Beautiful and Shakespeare’s classic comedy. The film isn’t an adaptation per se, it’s more of a loose contemporary retelling. David is plagued with some masculine notion that he needs to save Kat (her name can’t be a coincidence), our drunken shrew when he realizes her life is a mess. He desperately wishes to tame her, shape her into the proper girlfriend. Clearly no one has ever taught David the cardinal rule of dating: you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife. Kat is quick tempered and wild, a woman who makes it apparent she does not want to be saved. David, unable to accept this, forges a relationship similar to that of master and pet rather than an equal partnership. The two eventually bond and it makes for some very sweet and authentic cinema, but those moments, which are shown via a quickly paced montage, are short lived when reality sets in.

On the technical side, Dirty Beautiful’s script is tonally consistent making the film a perfectly balanced dramedy. There’s a complete lack of mood whiplash because the humor and drama are blended well enough that far extremes are avoided and a sense of realism is achieved. The editing is polished, seamlessly stitching together shots to make each scene flow smoothly. Bartell’s direction is also on point; he captures a sense of confinement by making David’s apartment the primary setting and his use of framing is very telling in the dysfunctional relationship of Kat and David. For most of the movie, the pair occupied separate frames, but when they are connecting and sharing genuine moments of honesty with one another (both of love and anger), they share frames, growing closer both spatially and emotionally.

I had two thoughts after watching this film:

1. Hasn’t this guy ever heard of OkCupid and 2. Where is the tequila?