Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990, USA)

               Cry Baby was John Waters’ first studio film, and also had his largest budget up to that point - $12 million dollars. Following the success of Hairspray at New Line, Waters’ was suddenly being courted by studios for his next project. He was also able to secure Johnny Depp in his first major screen role – a role that launched a number of interesting choices he made in the 1990s under auteurs including Emir Kusturica, Tim Burton, Jim Jarmusch, and Terry Gilliam. While Hairspray was focused on music, it was not a musical, and Waters’ refers to Cry Baby as a musical. While Cry Baby not Waters’ best film, it is quite entertaining and boasts an eclectic cast that includes – among others – Iggy Pop, Susan Tyrrell, Joe Dalessandro, and Willem Dafoe in a cameo.

               While Waters’ refers to Hairspray as his film about outsiders, he refers to Cry Baby as his film about class. The film tells the story of Cry-Baby, a “drape” or bad boy of 1950s Baltimore, and his winning over a good girl. Problems ensue as the good girl Allison’s boyfriend finds out. There’s not much substance in the way of plot here, but the musical numbers are fun, and Waters’ clearly shows a reverence for a bygone era of Baltimore’s past. Despite graduating to a major studio, he still manages to keep the “home movie” feel of his earlier works. That being said, Cry Baby is a much more polished film than his works from the 1970s.

               The film occupies a space among many other films during the 1980s which looked fondly toward the 1950s or adopted the aesthetics of this era, including David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. While Cry Baby lacks the aggression of Waters’ earlier films, it still retains the camp sensibility he is so well known for.



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