In 1990, I was doing three things: being 10, playing Nintendo, and listening to the Dr. Feelgood tape over and over again until my pretty pink cassette player revolted and fried itself out forever. Motley Crue’s lyrics were overtly suggestive, the videos were blatant propaganda for booze, drugs, and sex, and they wore silly costumes and freaky make-up. They. Were. The. Shit.
Upon first hearing about this movie, I was unexcited to say the least. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Motley Crue and I didn’t want to see some biopic with bad actors spewing watered-down lines about how life on the road is tough and drugs ease your pain…man.
Oh God, I was wrong. “The Dirt” movie is based on the autobiography collectively written by each member of the Crue. It was released in 2001 and as I understand, has been in movie talks since 2006. I regret never picking up this book, but as I said, I was sure I knew everything there is to know from the Behind the Musics, and other pseudo-documentaries about either the band or one of its original members. (I admit, I don’t know much about Vince Neil replacement John Corabi except how to pronounce his name. The movie didn’t seem to care too much about him either).
The story begins with the horrendous childhood of Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) and lays the groundwork for his future addiction. Next we meet teenager Tommy Lee (Colson Baker) in a nice home having a sibling spat with his sister and chatting with his dad about his new girlfriend. This is a way more functional household than Nikki’s. Next is Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon aka Ramsay Bolton from GOT y’all!) who was given an audition because of a newspaper ad he placed pronouncing himself as “a loud, rude and aggressive guitar player”. We don’t know much about his home life, but that just keeps him nice and mysterious. Lastly, we meet Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) singing cover songs at a backyard party and already enjoying the perks of being lead singer of a band.
First of all, the actors who played the band all nailed it and nailed it hard (hey – get your mind out of the gutter!) Tommy Lee was sweet, charming and completely out of control all at the same time. Mick Mars, the elder of the group, was the sage providing sound advice and dry wit. Nikki Sixx is a smoldering hot rock star on the outside, but just under the surface, a growing dependency on heroin is killing him on the inside. And Vince Neil, having sexual relations with anything that moves, is your typical carefree, narcissistic punk. He’s hardly lovable at first, but believable and fun to watch. His story has always been the most heartbreaking in my opinion. For all of the terrible decisions he made in his life, especially one that took a life, I was in tears watching his lowest point play out on screen.
I think die-hard fans of Crue’s music are going to wish this were an epic 4-hour movie that included more back story on their earlier hit songs/albums and delved deeper into each one’s personal life. But it’s not. At only 1 hour 40 minutes, it hits most of the highlights and lowlights of the band’s reign in the 80’s. It felt like the story was going a little too fast and some details got a little muddled, but in this particular case, I didn’t care. Basically it’s a whirlwind of girls, shows, drugs, strip clubs, more drugs, hanging out with Ozzy Osbourne, more girls, Tommy Lee marries Heather Locklear, more strip clubs, more drugs. You don’t care so much about fact checking, you’re just along for the ride, but far enough away where you’re safe from catching an STD.
I was enthralled with this movie from start to finish. The actors had their respective band member’s quirks and mannerisms (and haircuts!) down perfectly. At one point they recreated some of their old videos and everyone was spot-on with their portrayal. SNL’s Pete Davidson was a nice surprise and had a fun, geeky presence as an Elektra executive. For some people, it will be a nostalgic snapshot of a time when Motley Crue ruled the world. I am still a huge fan of their music, hell, I played “Kickstart My Heart” in the delivery room while I was gearing up to give birth to my child.
Bottom line: Go check out The Dirt on Netflix. It’s not messing around and tells a good story, with all the language, antics, and excesses you’d expect from a rock band fueled by drugs and alcohol. As an esteemed member of the Dirty Penguin Presents: Movies! podcast, I give this film “2 Flippers Up”!
Check out The Dirty Penguin Presents: Movies! for more in-depth breakdowns of such “classics” as Vanilla Sky, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twilight, Showgirls and much more!