Polyester (1981)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Domestic Comedy, Satire  |   Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

John Waters' first 'mainstream' film is a subtler, slicker affair than previous wild outings like Pink Flamingos but this doesn't mean that it is tame. In fact, Polyester is just as bitingly satirical as his more underground efforts but aim its sights at more everyday targets like suburbia and the nuclear family. The film benefits from one of Waters' most polished scripts, which sets up a wonderfully weird array of characters and subplots with comedic flair and then interweaves them to create something that plays like Douglas Sirk and William Castle teaming up to do a remake of Peyton Place. Waters also turns in some slick work behind the camera, working in some novel visual devices like split-screen and an opening credits sequence that makes surprisingly sophisticated use of a steadicam. He also gets strong comedic performances from his cast: Tab Hunter is perfectly cast as low-rent romeo Todd Tomorrow and Stiv Bators makes a perfect cartoon punk as Bobo. Best of all, Divine turns in a wonderful cast-against-type performance as the put-upon Francine Fishpaw, wringing every last drop of over-the-top melodrama out of the material and conjuring up memories of old Joan Crawford melodramas as she chews up the scenery. In short, Polyester is one of Waters' most accomplished films from many standpoints and well-crafted enough to appeal to viewers who wouldn't normally go for his far-out brand of screen comedy.