Female Trouble (1974)

Female Trouble (1974)

“We have a theory that crime enhances one’s beauty.”

A former juvenile delinquent (Divine) is impregnated and promptly abandoned by a man (Divine) she hitches a ride with, then raises an insufferable daughter (Mink Stole) while surviving on her own as a prostitute and thief. After marrying a hairdresser (Michael Potter) whose aunt (Edith Massey) wishes he was gay, Divine is offered work as a model by hair salon owners (Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary) obsessed with capturing her unique “beauty” during criminal acts — but Divine soon becomes enraptured by her own fame, and loses all sight of reality.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • John Waters Films
  • Kidnapping
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Models
  • Rise-and-Fall
  • Single Mothers
  • Thieves and Criminals

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “John Waters’s wickedly funny cult film is a celebration of Crime and Beauty, both personified by Divine”. He notes that the “comedy contains child abuse, a hand being hacked off, acid thrown in Divine’s face (she’s told she looks better afterward):

… rapes, a woman being kept in a cage, [and] attempted incest”, but that “the really bad taste is evident in Waters’s well-chosen costumes, hairdos, furniture, decor, and, of course, cast members.” He argues that while “the picture is not consistently funny, and… Waters goes too far too often”, he appreciates that “this is the picture in which Divine really broke loose”: she is “not only unique but genuinely hilarious — even doing a deadpan tumbling act that would have made the great silent comics proud.” I don’t share Peary’s fondness for this film, or for Divine’s performance, and don’t consider it “wickedly funny” at all — though I suppose I can see how its fans might. My favorite moment is when Stole finally finds peace with the Hare Krishnas — this is the first and only movie I’ve seen where joining that brainwashing cult is made to seem like a smart and life-affirming choice.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Typically outrageous and colorful sets, scenes, costumes, and make-up

Must See?
Nope; skip it unless you’re a Waters fan.


One thought on “Female Trouble (1974)

  1. A once-must (though I daresay that may not suffice) for camp/cult enthusiasts only (to others: this is fair warning).

    Along with ‘Pink Flamingos’, ‘Female Trouble’ actually shows Waters getting his shit together as a writer/director. More than even ‘PF’, ‘FT’ (the better of the two films) often has the look and feel of a real movie. Go fig. So, I guess he was, um…growing?

    Of course, neither film is actually…good. Waters wasn’t going for ‘good’ at this stage in the game. He was just celebrating cinema anarchy with a little more polish and flair, often paying tribute to everything he loves about bad or camp/cult films in general.

    I hadn’t seen this in a long time – and had honestly forgotten how funny (and, strangely, how well-constructed plot-wise) it is overall. The script has some (actually a lot) of the weirdest dialogue out there – which is often made even funnier by the fact that most of the cast members are…well, trying their very, over-the-top, valiant best considering they’re rank amateurs.

    Of course, there’s also Divine! ~who just about completely re-defines acting as an art form! That ‘nightclub act’ alone! 😉 (And, as her daughter, Mink Stole delivers a solidly delirious turn as some sort of demented Shirley Temple – well, until she ‘sees the light’, that is.)

    The film’s biggest asset is that it’s just soooo thoroughly ridiculous. You can’t take this flick seriously for a single frame – and that’s the way Waters wanted it!

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