‘The Dirt’ displays the extravagance of rock star fame … and that’s about it

Illustration by Julia Gillbert

Aaron Royce, Contributing Writer

Within the first two minutes of Netflix’s “The Dirt,” those uninterested in rock music or its stereotypes would be understandably deterred.

The introduction features a riotous apartment party that involves the band’s frontman setting his arm on fire, and other members participating in sexual exploits that culminate in a public orgasm. Self-introduced as a “gang of f-cking idiots,” Mötley Crüe continues to overdo everything from sex and drugs to over-the-top musical performances until the film’s end.

Directed by Jeff Tremaine of “Jackass” — which sets the tone of this film and should serve as a warning for those unfamiliar with his work — “The Dirt” is based on Mötley Crüe’s 2001 memoir of the same name. The spiral of dramatic events ranges from the genre’s expected themes of parental abuse, affairs and spousal violence to the unexpected scene of Ozzy Osbourne snorting ants. These are heightened by the boldly monochromatic lighting and color tones in each scene, which are the film’s most prominent redeemable qualities.

Performances by Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx and Machine Gun Kelly as Tommy Lee are also exceptional. It may only be because they’re given the most screen time and hedonistic behaviors — such as when Sixx snorts cocaine off of groupies and Lee’s performance of oral sex in the movie’s opening.

They’re well done, but none of the characters are remotely likeable and consistently dig themselves into deeper pitfalls. Unlike films that show improved integrity after their protagonists pursue fame, the men in this band never seem to learn when to stop. They don’t change their behavior after their frontman nearly dies or a band member is killed in a drunken car crash.

The movie’s chronology is applaudable. It’s one of the most structural parts of the film. The band’s original quartet — Sixx, Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil — is shown from its beginnings in childhood households to the formation of Mötley Crüe, embarking on a first tour and exploring the dangers of limitless fame. There are also timeline-worthy events that appear to pay homage to Mötley Crüe’s original tales. Viewers can expect overdose resuscitation, excessive day drinking and rushed celebrity marriages in this band’s pursuit of infamy.

In a sense, this film is the antithesis to last year’s rock biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” — it’s an honest tale of stardom, with more rock glamour than “Rhapsody’s” emotional grit. The film’s accuracy to the original memoir and its stream of unrestrained humor is without flaw. The book’s simplicity definitely makes for an easy film adaptation of the 1980s rock stereotype that Mötley Crüe furthered: loud, music-blasting, leather-jacket-wearing rebels. But their high-rolling lifestyle leaves more to be desired — there’s no lessons learned or behaviors changed after they skyrocket to fame.

That excess of rock star tropes — trashing hotel rooms, rampant sexual affairs and uncontrolled partying, to name a few — is so extravagant it leaves little room for humane moments or sympathy for the film’s protagonists. The band’s drive to fight traditional musical conventions in an era of new wave sound is admirable. But ultimately their glamorous rise to fame takes a toll, and that seems to be the film’s driving factor.

Fame and celebrity status are parts of American culture today, and Mötley Crüe’s unruly, raunchy and trashy lifestyle makes for an interesting response. Their subsequent days of no-holds-barred constant partying is shocking, concerning and exactly what one would expect from the biggest rock band in the world during the ‘80s.

“The Dirt” isn’t for the faint of heart and likely isn’t for rock music fans who only value Mötley Crüe for their musical contributions. The target audience is longtime fans or even rebellious young adults who can look past the graphic displays of fame-induced debauchery and still be entertained. Though true to its adaptation, this movie’s goal of spotlighting a group’s glam-rock lifestyle and rise to prominence has all of the craft and depth of a dumpster fire.

A TV interview featured in the movie promises to give viewers “a glimpse inside all the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.” That statement sums up “The Dirt” in a nutshell — if sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll are your forte, you’ll see them all in constant gratuity.

Rating: 2.5/5

1 Comment

  1. I’m sorry but you missed the mark. From it I took that addiction can be fought and overcome every day. That loyalty is genuine. You skimmed the surface and saw what you wanted to see. Good on you for putting your opinion out there but I gained a very different perspective. Watch it again but with no judgement and watch an addict reclaim his life and friends reclaim their family after a tragic loss. And some bad ass fucking musical talent.

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