The Dirties follows Matt Johnson (his actual name, as this film is very meta) and Owen Williams (real name) as they make a movie about getting revenge on a gang of bullies from their high school for a film class. Their first movie gets censored and then mocked by the same bullies they are fighting in the film and a new, much darker film takes shape.
The film has a documentary type feel to it as the cameras are always on. Matt and Owen often talk to the camera, but the camera operator never responds. The story blends back and forth from what seems like reality scenes that then pulls back to Matt editing those very scenes on his computer. It’s a great transitional device and also a very interesting framing device.
The film manages to discuss two very serous topics, school bullying and school shootings, in a dark comedic way that always has very serious moments. There are some very great film moments and comedy in this movie. Yet, as a teacher, I was genuinely scared at times as the conversations the kids were having were so casual and light hearted, but the content of the conversations were dark. It was hard to tell if they were just jesting or sincerely considering taking the actions they were discussing. The film plays out marvelously and the way the film is shot makes it feel like you are witnessed a potential horrendous crime.
The film is extremely indie as Matt Johnson is the star and the director, with most of the writers appearing in the film as well. This plays into their characters as well so it really feels like a found footage film that is better shot than many of the others for the most part.
The performances were solid all around with even the bullying scenes feeling authentic for the most part. I believed the friendship and the schism that eventual befalls it. It’s a really interesting movie.
Because of the framing device of the film, some of the scenes don’t make as much sense for us to see. That is always a problem when people are aware of them being filmed. The cameraperson being a silent observer, but also obviously apart of the world of the characters was an odd choice. When some of the elements of the film are debated the cameraman sits idly by. It’s safe to assume he agrees with the decision that Matt takes, but at the same time never says anything one way or the other. There are moments where the camera operator appears to be hiding from the subject he is filming and the use of a wireless lapel mic captures the audio, but then another shot will be shown where the camera operator would be in plain sight of the subject. These little inconsistencies often plague the mockumentary or found footage style film.
I was enthralled with this film. Lots of movie references for the film nerds out there and interesting story that many can connect to. Kevin Smith’s movie club released this film, which I think I heard a few years ago, but had forgotten that fact. I give The Dirties a 7 out of 10 home movies.