FEATURE SERIAL MOM
Mothy of prll
With Hairspray and Cry Baby, JOHN WATERS moved away from the underground trash that brought him infinite cult status. Now directing Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom, he adds a big Hollywood name to his world of weirdness. Alan Morrison learns that it’s not all necessarily in
the best possible taste.
or a man who has had us watch Divine
chomp on puppy poo. made us sniff
bed farts by scratching an ‘Odorama‘
card. and fills his informal rep
company with the likes of ex-terrorist
Patti Hearst and former porn star Traci Lords. John Waters cuts a dapper figure. Polite. witty and perfectly turned out in a designer suit. it’s only his trademark pencil-thin moustache that hints at a sleazier side to the man whose work is held in such high esteem it was chosen to close this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
No more Mr ‘Pope of Trash‘ (as William Burroughs named him)? Certainly. the release of his latest movie. Serial Mom. promises to be his biggest crossover success to date. and he can smile as his name sits on the posters beside those of respected actors Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston. But this is big screen comedy. Waters style: the story of a wonderful mother whose love for her family goes so far that she’ll kill the bozo who stands up her daughter. run her car merrily over the schoolteacher who suggests her son needs therapy. spew foul obscenities down the phone to a neighbour who stole her parking space. If one foot is now in the mainstream.
money in Hollywood until it was possible that I would get it. The difference is that my age runs Hollywood now. Ten years ago, a studio executive would say. “I’ve heard of this guy — go rent one of his films". And they’d watch Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble and have a nervous breakdown. Now the people who run the studios saw Pink Flamingos in college. they don‘t watch it again. but they remember it fondly.‘
More than twenty years after it was made, Pink Flamingos still offends the sensibilities of the late-night brigade. Waters’s third full-length feature. it followed the astoundingly low- budget Mondo Traslio (Divine pushing Mary Vivian Pearce‘s dead body around in a wheelchair) and Multiple Maniacs (mass killer Divine writhing in ecstasy to the ‘rosary job’ she‘s being given by religious pervert Mink Stole). out-grossing both in all senses of the word with its competition to find the filthiest human being in the world. The Baltimore-born Waters had refined his tasteless talents on an 8mm camera. making underground movies throughout the 60s after having been expelled from NYU‘s film programme for smoking marijuana. It was
the other is squashing down the Waters lens that defiantly on a dotY turd — ' transformed Baltimore grimace-inducing. C slightly 1‘0" tam Shows now’ hairdresser Harris Glenn nauseating. but screamineg dVSflIIIDtIOIIIS fame. Milstcad imo 3001b drag funny when it happens to They go on talk shows queen Divine. the one someone else. essential element in all of
‘Well. I always used to make the joke that. if I sold out. nobody would buy me.‘ Waters quips. ‘This film. to me. is sometimes more insane than the last two [the ()()s beehive world of Hairspray and the 50s teen culture of Cry Baby]. although it certainly looks better and has more real stars in it. I’ve always tried to make money with my films because I want to make the next one. I never used to ask for
The List 3- l() June I994
and say things it would take me a year to tell a psychiatrist.’
Waters’s films until the actor’s death from a heart attack in I988. just after the completion of Hairspray.
Divine could have been a magnificent Beverly Sutphin, the Serial Mom of the title. but Waters is actually able to get more gasps of surprise from his audience by having such an established name as Kathleen Turner in the midst of his trademark mayhem. The funniest. sickest
American comedy to have hit the screen for ages. it digs into the apple-pie values and ideals of suburban family life. peeling away the surface sheen to reveal one mother’s desperate attempts to keep her nest well-feathered. Happily married to her dentist husband, Beverly bounces her blonde bob and flashes her orthodontically perfected smile at friends and neighbours while feverishly plotting their downfall. There’s an acidic twist of cruelty in this colourful cocktail that could only be the work of John Waters. a comedic zest that kicks ‘ it way above the self-satisfied nature of its peers. And despite all this, Serial Mom still manages to have an exaggerated sense of responsibility.
‘I think Serial Mom is politically correct. She only kills people who deserve it, really.’ reckons the director. ‘I wish my mother had done that for me. Certainly. in some ways. I was making fun of the politically correct movement: in this film. it is worse to not recycle than it is to murder. . . which is taking political correctness to quite a degree. And my films are. 1 think. very moral. All my ﬁlms are about people who