rag icon Divine stars as Francine Fishpaw, a depressed housewife from a middle-class suburban home in Baltimore, who’s life is crumbling to pieces all around her. Her husband is a louse who not only cheats on her with his secretary, but also runs an X-rated theatre, which causes anti-pornography protestors to picket the Fishpaw household daily. As if that wasn’t enough on Francine’s plate, the Fishpaw children are no shining examples themselves: there’s Lu-Lu, a promiscuous brat, and Dexter, a perverted delinquent glue-sniffer who gets off on stomping on women’s feet. Everything seems too bleak to go on for our lonesome hero, but then she meets the corvette-driving super hunk Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter), who eventually proposes marriage to the elated Francine. Will everything finally work out for Francine Fishpaw in the arms of her babely new mate, or is history doomed to repeat itself?
Although arguably tamer than the earlier work in his career, garnering the first R-rating of Waters’ flicks (as compared to everything else before this being X-rated), this movie is still delightfully anarchistic and hilarious from beginning to end. Polyester is John Waters’ love letter to the bored, moody housewives of Douglas Sirk’s filmography but also the campy, bizarre gimmicks of schlock king William Castle. Divine is indecipherable from any character played by Lana Tuner or Jane Wyman in a Sirk melodrama, playing off of the standard themes to create a pitch-perfect poor taste satire. Polyester also contains an interactive gimmick ala William Castle’s output, a director known for added features to his screenings. There is a running joke that Francine Fishpaw’s sense of smell is extremely heightened, so to let the audience in on her capability, everyone is given Odorama scratch and sniff cards, with number prompts on the corner of the screen to tell you which spot to smell. Will it be roses? Or will it be natural gas?
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