Review: Netflix's 'The Dirt' Is a Potent Reminder of an Era You Wish You Could Forget
My coming-of-age years straddled two eras. Middle school was Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Mötley Crüe, and high school was Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. I still marvel at the cultural sea change wrought by one song in 1991, which essentially wiped out an entire genre of music practically overnight.
Thank f—king God.
I’m not going to front and say that I didn’t love the music of Mötley Crüe. I did, and honestly, a lot of those riffs still hold up. “Kickstart My Heart” will never not be a propulsive, sh*t-kicking banger, “Home Sweet Home” still nags at my heartstrings, and “Smoking in the Boys Room” and “Girls Girls Girls” still hold up, if you can ignore everything that Vince Neil sings in them.
On the other hand, I have zero nostalgic fondness for the hair-band era, the glorification of drugs, misogyny, and terrible fashion. I’ve never really even done drugs, and Netflix’s The Dirt made me want to stop by rehab on the way to a monastery. I mean, credit to director Jeff Tremaine (Bad Grandpa, the Jackass movies), at least The Dirt doesn’t soft-pedal the era’s excesses or attempt any kind of revisionism in that regard (except for leaving out that one scene); it’s 100 minutes of f*cking, drugs, and Mötley Crüe, which is about 100 minutes of f*cking, drugs, and Mötley Crüe too much.
It’s also objectively a terrible movie. The script — adapted by Rich Wiles (Airheads, Jerky Boys) from the Neil Strauss book about the band — is lousy, the production values are cheap, Tremaine’s direction is substandard, and the acting — save for Iwan Rheon’s Mick Mars — is sh*t. It’s bad, and anyone familiar with Crüe already knows the story anyway (told far better by VH1’s Behind the Music episode on the band), and anyone who isn’t familiar with Crüe probably has no interest in the film.
It’s a cartoonish biopic that sticks to the well-worn biopic structure: A bunch of struggling nobodies get together and form a band; the band tours local clubs; they’re signed (by Elektra, here represented by Pete Davidson); they get a manager (what are you doing in this film, David Costabile?); they get huge; they do a lot of drugs and bang a lot of women; the infighting starts; the band falls apart;, the band breaks up; and eventually there is a reconciliation (honestly, I had completely forgotten that Vince Neil had been replaced by John Corabi for an entire five years, but then again, there wasn’t exactly a lot of demand for hair metal between 1992 and 1997. Also, I just listened to a single on that album, and it is terrible. Best that The Dirt completely glossed over that period).
The music itself might evoke a few pangs of nostalgia, but it’s not worth suffering through the movie. It’s just three douchebags (and Mick Mars) acting like overgrown toddlers for an hour and a half, trashing hotel rooms, f**king each other’s girlfriends, snorting coke, then injecting heroin. Vince Neil’s drunken car crash (in which Hanoi Rocks’ drummer was killed) is also mostly glossed over — a guy died, two people suffered brain damage, and Vince Neil got a 30-day prison sentence (he only served 15 days), because … the 1980s!?
It should be said, too, that significant liberties were taken, particularly at the end of the film. Vince Neil did lose his four-year-old daughter to cancer in 1995, but the film suggests that the band reunited soon thereafter, because — as Nikki Sixx notes in the film — he just wanted to get his real “family” back together. In reality, Crüe sucked without Neil; Neil sucked without the Crüe; and in 1997, Crüe’s record label wouldn’t let them record another album unless they hired Neil back. In any respect, Tommy Lee left the band soon thereafter. But, you know: Even sh*tty films about sh*tty people who made sh*tty choices long past the age in which sh*tty choices could be excused deserves a happy ending, right? I guess I’m just not big on romanticizing people who managed to survive their own stupidity for two decades. And while I’m not exactly holding the era against the artists, I’m not exactly keen on celebrating it, either. Crüe recorded some great songs, but they were not special, and to be honest, a shitty Netflix film directed by the guy who directed Jackass 3D is about what the band deserves.
Header Image Source: Netflix
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