Movie Review : The Dirt (2019)
If Mötley Crüe survived so long in popular culture, it’s because of our inexplicable fondness for the eighties and its good-natured excesses. Or the good-natured excesses we choose to remember. Whatever. Crüe were the loudest, flashiest, most stylish and destructive band of the hair metal era, which makes them by default the one hair metal band we all remember today *. So, it was a natural that Neil Strauss chronicled their career in The Dirt: Confessions of the World Most Notorious Rock Band in 2001 and it was only a matter of time before it would be made into a film.
We’re finally here and it’s as wild, soulless, depraved and FUCKING AWESOME as you can imagine. The Dirt is the epitome of rock n’ roll.
In case you were born after 1997 or lived under a ruck until then, Mötley Crüe is a silly, over-the-top formed by teenage runaway Nikki Sixx ** (Douglas Booth), spoiled brat Tommy Lee (freakin’ Machine Gun Kelly), horny cover band singer Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) and curmudgeonly guitarist with a degenerative bone condition Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon). They got together in 1981 and quickly became famous for their hedonistic lifestyle and public personas. The Dirt is more or less the story of their career, excesses and how the incompatibility of these two factors eventually caused the band’s downfall. But there’s LOTS of partying in it.
The Dirt is not a profound movie, but Mötley Crüe were not a profound band. So, it portrays them and their lifestyle accurately, at least from the memory we keep of them in popular culture. It doesn’t differ from most rock bands biopics, except that it has way more tits, cocaine and chaos. The Dirt was heavily critized in media for glorifying debauchery, but I wonder what the fuck people were expecting from a Mötley Crüe biopic. Band members aren’t making anyone miserable but themselves (and maybe their manager) and their parties (despite being wild) seem to be enjoyed by everyone present. Crüe’s heyday was a wild, partying time. What else was it supposed to be?
One screenwriting quirk I really liked was the use of several unreliable narrators, which both preserved the anecdotal nature of the eighties and the mystique of Mötley Crüe. The Dirt doesn’t necessarily has all the facts straight, but tells them like the guys remember them and it’s key to keep the movie fun and unpredictable. I want to hear something that happened at 3 AM in a hotel lobby from the boozy mind of someone who lived it and not necessarily from a third party account. Boozy stories are fun when they are enhanced and exaggerated and The Dirt understands that. It’s a movie about wild and irresponsible people that is wild and irresponsible. It’s simple, straightforward and alive in ways few biopics actually are.
I loved The Dirt and I don’t care what other critics might say. It doesn’t have a responsibility to understand the debauchery and destruction of its era because there wasn’t anything to understand. A couple kids with rock star dreams were given millions of dollars to act on their fantasies and promptly did, becoming every cliché you might think of. If there is anything to learn from it, it’s that we’re still pretty damn uptight about doing drugs, liberally having sex and rocking out. So, don’t believe the hype and watch The Dirt just like you’d watch a Jackass movie… because they were both directed by Jeff Tremaine. It’s lewd, crass, violent, disgusting, immature and quite excellent.
* I don’t know one person not still actively into metal today who remembers Dokken, but everyone remembers Mötley Crüe. Even if you weren’t into metal, you still do today.
** Not his real name, but it legally is now.