Polyester (1981)


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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Filmmaker John Waters offers his own inimitable and invariably vulgar take on the American middle class in this off-beat satire that stars transvestite actor Divine as a lonely housefrau who escapes the numbing drudgery and horror of life with her freaky husband and hellish children by falling in love with a handsome owner of a drive in. When the film was originally released, viewers were handed special scratch-and-sniff cards to participate in "Odorama," a gimmick by which they could smell … More

Rating: R
Genre: Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: John Waters
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 7, 2004
New Line Cinema


as Francine Fishpaw

as Todd Tomorrow

as Cuddles Kovinsky

as Sandra Sullivan

as Elmer Fishpaw

as LaRue, mother

as LaRue, Mother

as Lulu Fishpaw

as Dexter Fishpaw

as Chauffeur

as Bo-Bo

as Dr. Quackenshaw

as Freddy Ashton

as Gospel Bus Hijacker

as Picket Reporter

as TV News Announcer

as Betty Lalinski

as Mall Victim

as Bo-Bo's Friend

as School Principal

as Teenage Witness

as Abortion Picket

as Pizza Man 2

as Pizza Man 3

as Porno Picket

as Alcoholic Leader

as Porno Picket

as Boutique Saleslady

as Detective A

as Detective B

as Press B

as Press C

as Hospital Reporter

as Jewish Man

as Porno Picket
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Critic Reviews for Polyester

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | September 12, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Polyester is definitely one of Waters's best films, and I highly recommend attending an 'Odorama' screening for a unique night at the movies.

Full Review… | September 1, 2014
Electric Sheep

By standards of Waters' gross-out features, this mildly amusing film is sedate, notable for the casting of fading movie star Tab Hunter and for introducing a gimmick called Odorama, scratch-and-sniff cards.

Full Review… | June 24, 2012

Polyester may be one of the few times when Waters tried to expand his cinematic language at the expense of his usual verbal variety

Full Review… | August 22, 2005
DVD Verdict

Audience Reviews for Polyester

Like a Fassbinder or Douglas Sirk movie made by John Waters, it is a mess with all his trademark filth, irritating overacting and ridiculous lack of structure and focus, and I guess it would be only amusing and worth seeing in the cinema for the Odorama scratch-and-sniff gimmick.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

I think that "Polyester" is John Waters' best movie. "Female Trouble" may have been funnier, but I prefer the elements in this softer creation to that earlier, meaner-spirited film. "Polyester" was the director's bridge between his last bad taste epic, "Desperate Living" (which was also great) and his first attempt at something mainstream, "Hairspray". So, what I think happened was a decrescendo of creative emotion. John Waters still has something to say about the lower middle-class here, but he used up the angry parts of his perspective when he was younger. Still, he wasn't quite ready for parody... In "Polyster", I suspect that the director wanted to utilize aspects of the culture that he had affection for. For one thing, Divine never played a more sympathetic character, and she was teamed up with Edith Massey, who was, in my opinion, the most memorable and lovable and enjoyable of all of the Waters' group. I think it's closer to call "Polyester" a tongue in cheek comedy than a satire. What's so funny about "Polyester" is how everybody acts around Francine, who is extremely kind, but ineffectual and dopey. Why is everybody so pre-occupied with tormenting her? I love how LaRue gets increasingly demented. And nobody can act humiliated and put-upon like Divine... Also, the sets are very warm and pleasant - I actually loved the Fishpaw house. Warm, funny, funny movie...

Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer


Cheap. Dirty. Sleazy. Whacked-out. Funny. Smelly. I enjoyed Polyester very much. Despite being made in 1981, it felt very 1970's low-budget. Offered in Odorama, where you scratch and sniff the appropriate scent on a card when a number flashes onscreen, totally gimmicky and fun! Divine makes a great bored and depressed housewife. Totally funny movie, with a beautiful message buried underneath all the sweaty smelly polyester.

Lafe Fredbjornson

Super Reviewer

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