Juno Temple is shown in a scene from "Dirty Girl." (David Moir / The Weinstein…)
The high school outcast comedy "Dirty Girl," set in 1987, wants to be a filthy-mouthed alternative to the John Hughes canon.
When Oklahoma teen Danielle (Juno Temple) — a tight-skirted, bad-behavior tornado — is paired with chubby closet-case loner Clarke (Jeremy Dozier) for a remedial class project, they instead ditch their terrible home lives and hotfoot it to California. Danielle's on a biological-dad quest since mom (Milla Jovovich) is about to marry a restrictive Mormon (William H. Macy), while Clarke is escaping his violently gay-averse father (Dwight Yoakam) and mousy mom (Mary Steenburgen).
Writer-director Abe Sylvia slathers on the cartoonish characterization and neon-colored '80s pop — Benatar! Joan Jett! The Outfield! — for an easy-bake mood-setting, which is tedious enough. But his attempts at situational humor on the road — including a stripping scene for Dozier as coming-out metaphor — fall embarrassingly flat.
Only Temple's sturdy turn navigates the film's bumpy ride from sassy to serious, her tarty confidence segueing believably into slumping vulnerability even while the movie around her takes on the shape of a lackluster, Melissa Manchester-themed episode of "Glee."
"Dirty Girl." MPAA rating: R for sexual content including graphic nudity, and for language. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. At the ArcLight, Hollywood; AMC Century City 15, Century City; Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.