Pecker Review

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The wacky rags to riches tale of a young 'photographer' plucked from obscurity.


John Waters continues his colourful chronicles of blue collar Baltimore with a wacky tale of art and artlessness. And if you snigger at its naughty title, you'll know you're in the right movie.

Pecker (Furlong), so named because he pecked at his food like a little bird when he was a kid, is a happy-go-lucky 18-year-old innocent who works in a diner but photographs his world with the camera his mother (Mary Kay Place) found in her junk shop. He snaps everything he likes including his girlfriend Shelley (Ricci) who runs a launderette and his bizarre family; grandmother Memama (Jean Schertler) who listens to a talking Blessed Mother statue; elder sister Tina (Martha Plimpton) who works at a gay go-go bar; and younger sister Chrissy (Lauren Hulsey) who's a hypermanic sugar junkie.

All's right with their world until a chic gallery owner (Taylor) discovers Pecker's pictures, and launches him on the New York art scene. He's the toast of the town for his photos of the "culturally challenged" but fame and riches leave him and his clan hounded and humiliated. Pecker's artistic freedom is curtailed as well, causing him, in a society where it's downright un-American to reject celebrity, to take a startling stand.

Pecker, like its eponymous hero, is deceptively goofy and guileless. The characters are a daftly endearing bunch; their obsessions and aspirations are naive, their aesthetic trashy. But there's a sharp perception behind this lowlife fairy tale that art is whatever you think it is, wherever you see it.

Waters uses irony to convey disdain for art, satire to celebrate simplicity. His unique vision as a committed artist and unrepentantly crude joker makes this sweet, disarming, intelligent fun.