Polyester - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Polyester Reviews

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August 11, 2017
Hasn't Aged Well At All. The Smell-o-Vision Is A Good Gimmick, But The RestOf It, Largely Out Of A Terrible Story, Is Just Deplorable. Not Worth It Really.
April 18, 2016
A devilish black comedy about mother trying to come to grips with her whole family falling apart. She finds out her husband is an Adult Filmmaker & incredibly unfaithful, her daughter is very wayward & pregnant & her son has an extreme foot fetish.

Undoubtedly the film is quite bizarre but it's awfully funny & you find yourself cracking up with the most unlikely scenes.

The film features at first Odorama which audiences are given a card with 10 numbers on them & when the number appears on screen you must scratch & sniff it accordingly. It creates a lot of fun with the audience & adds to the film dramatically.
½ December 13, 2015
On a neverending quest to understand the mind of John Waters, Polyester sounded like a good chance to get one step closer.

With nothing in disguise, Polyester immediately clarifies to viewers its existence as being a satirical look at suburban life. With the main character being a mother attempting to structure her family like a 1950's sitcom in a society rampant with youth violencem, pornography and crude language as social norms. By comparing the contemporary timeframe to the facade of a 50's one, John Waters forced viewers to confront how times have changed with a relentless passion for dark comedy. The style and tone of the film is so brilliantly executed that the viewer can easily fail to recognize the fact that it is a very low-budget production with little in terms of narrative, and so as a result it is truly one of John Waters' finest films.
Polyester is a brilliant combination between over-the-top drama and dark comedy. The story is a melodrama full of comedic characters, and with John Waters' tenacious passion for the material he is easily able to let the material push the limits.
Though the story is confined to a small set of locations and the overall resolution quality is not the most high-definition, Polyester's screenplay and direction is so intelligent that it gets around it well. The story never really goes anywhere, but that's because it keeps coming back to the same plot point of Francine Fishpaw's endless suffering at the hands of a destructive family. The importance rests on the different ways that John Waters writes this into the screenplay, and the consistent variations between plot twists and sight gags ensures a versatile range of jokes to fuel the dark comedy of the screenplay. The dark comedy is so shocking and unexpected that it still has the power to hold up today, and there is no telling precisely which gags will hit viewers with surprise or laughter since its all a matter of discovering how deep the rabbit hole of John Waters' sick and twisted mind goes.
Essentially, Polyester is a very gimmicky film. However, it doesn't mean that all of them completely work out. Though the film is a satire on the "Women's Pictures" of the 1950's and 60's, that genre is little-known today and so its satirical edge is difficult to recognize outside of people who lived through the era or studied it. And as well as that, the "Aromascope" gimmick that came with the film is obviously more difficult to come by these days unless viewers have managed to get their hands on a special version of the home media release. Luckily enough these do not stand in the way of the film's narrative from naturally working, but it's clear that it takes a cult audience to appreciate the full extent of Polyester in its complete glory. Still, that's the case with most John Waters films so there is no sense in complaining all that much about it all. Frankly, of all the niche-driven John Waters films, Polyester carries his distinctive style without being too esoteric and has an organic sense of humour which can appeal to a wider audience.
And embracing the odd tone of the film to maximum extent, the cast of Polyester help to ensure there is no shortcomings in terms of acting.
Divine's melodramatic lead charms are absolutely brilliant. Treating the entire film like a soap opera, Divine stands out amid a cast of campy actors by taking a "woe is me" approach to every single situation in the film. Divine is so deeply lost in the role that it becomes all too natural, leaving it easy for viewers to forget that the main character is actually a drag queen in real life. Francine Fishpaw is an interesting character as she is the kind that viewers can feel sorry for, but also laugh at. Divine's repetitive nature is so delightfully over the top that it actually never wears thin, but rather proves to bring consistent dark humour into Polyester. Divine is a constant source of melodrama in Polyester, and her endless descent into self-pity is a key source of the film's drama and a lot of its comedy.
David Samson is also a strong fit. Capturing a twisted satire on the typical suburban husband, David Samson pumps his character full of the antagonistic archetype of an unappreciative husband. Capturing a gritty edge to him, David Samson takes an approach where he mimics the hard-edged masculinity of male characters from countless classic films and then diverts it into a campy self-obsession. This works to create an intense sense of chemistry between him and Divine where the two just play off each other with contrasting personas, clearly establishing the exact kind of relationship shared between them in no time. David Samson balances a hard edge with campy line delivery very well in Polyester.
Mary Garlington is also very over the top in her campy nature. Capturing the free-spirited partygirl nature of Lu-Lu Fishpaw, Mary Garlinton so obsessed with maximizing her physical energy that she never seems to stop moving. She keeps dancing her way through everything even though the jukebox is never playing and she says all her lines with such an airhead nature to her that she comes off as a hilariously cheesy character. The little-known Mary Garlington brings organic energy to Polyester and works to ensure that she transcends the intentional repetition of Lu-Lu Fishpaw's consistently cheesy dance moves.
Ken King manages to capture a strongly introverted persona and make a convincing comic transition to a different attitude later into the story, and both Edith Massey and Joni Ruth White manage to join the ensemble in capturing the twisted character creations of John Waters with vibrant humourous energy.

So Polyester makes up for its simplistic plot with a brilliant satirical edge and a tone which effectively works John Waters' distinctive style of dark comedy into a fashion which is twisted and yet hilarious while also managing to get the best efforts out of Divine.
August 24, 2015
My personal favorite John Waters film. It is just subversive enough, but never so much so that I have to cringe. This would be Waters' last entry in Midnight Movies -- and this time he secured an R Rating and some assistance from Debbie Harry and Bill Murray for the theme song!

This is a sort of twisted "John Waters' Love Letter to Douglas Sirk. And it is hilarious.

Divine is "Francine Fishpaw" and she is having a seriously bad time as a devoted housewife, mother, daughter and friend. And it is all presented in "Odorama!"

Not to be missed!
½ June 26, 2015
"Polyester" is a sort of warped women's picture, something reminiscent of a forgotten late career Liz Taylor vehicle that everyone glances at for a moment only to go back to drooling over something "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" related. I'm sure John Waters wanted it that way. Around the time "Polyester" came out (the early '80s, to be exact), he began to get bored with merely shocking people; he had ideas, dammit, and he was going to show the world! Making his favorite drag queen feast on dog poop for the sake of a jolt wasn't going to cut it anymore. So, following "Polyester", he became increasingly mainstream friendly, his next venture being 1987's "Hairspray", which was, in turn, followed by "Cry-Baby" and "Serial Mom". I've only witnessed the latter two - I'm too terrified to watch his earlier, more disgusting ventures - and it's impossible not to get a kick out of his filmmaking instincts.
Waters has said that he finds equal influence in high-brow art films and sleazy exploitation trash heaps, and "Polyester" combines the characteristics of the two with startling mastery. It ain't Bergman and it ain't Hill - instead, it's like a Joan Crawford sudser that bled internally after getting shot at a 711 but still decided to crawl to the nearest movie premiere to make an entrance with drama. The film is satire, but it's also a love letter, a stan, if you will, of the Hollywood Golden Age chick flick.
If you aren't so convinced of "Polyester"'s determination to give a sloppy kiss to the good old days of the campy melodrama, listen to this plot: overweight housewife Francine Fishpaw (Divine), who considers herself to be an atypical "good, Christian woman", is about to have a nervous breakdown: her dear husband, Elmer (David Samson), is the successful owner of a local porn theatre and an adulterer of the lowest common denominator. Her kids are maniacs: her daughter (Mary Garlington) is an aspiring go-go dancer knocked up by a hoodlum, while her son (Ken King), a glue-sniffer, is currently making media rounds as the Baltimore Foot Stomper. She has no friends, besides the asinine Cuddles (Edith Massey), and her verbally abusive mother (Joni Ruth White) makes sure to frequently stop by the house simply so she can berate her. So after her life eventually goes completely down the shitter (and I mean completely), she spirals into an alcohol-fueled depression. But after she meets Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter), a corvette driving businessman, things begin to look up.
I know, I know, "Polyester" sorta kinda sounds like an extremely over-the-top drama even Bette Davis would have turned down. But this time around, drama doesn't seem like the right kind of word by way of description. Is there a right word(s) to accurately describe "Polyester"? Consider: our female lead is a poorly dressed drag queen who has no problem reminding us that she is, in fact, a man (always a running joke for Waters). Consider that Tab Hunter, yes, Tab Hunter, the Golden Boy of the 1950s teen movie, is her love interest; that her supposed BFF, portrayed by the indelibly lovable Massey, is nearly toothless; that the film, as part of a marketing stunt, came with Odorama scratch-and-sniff cards to give the viewers a realistic aromatic experience.
Nothing about "Polyester" is remotely serious, and I like it all the more for it. At first, it seems like a bunch of super messed up friends got together and decided to make a movie, but as the film continues, one realizes that Waters is actually a clever writer, and Divine is a star, especially when it comes to sniffing loudly (you've got to promote that Odorama, after all), making disgruntled moans, and being all around charismatic. Yes, "Polyester" is chintzy, but sometimes, even the trashiest of entertainment seems like some form of bizarre art. Waters loves to throw garbage at us, but he's good at it. He's a smart director and a smart writer, as good at shocking as he is causing a guffaw. And you're damn right he calls this a living.
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2015
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.
½ March 11, 2015
Mainly consists of bad things happening to Divine and her gasping "oh!" in shock (try That for a drinking game!). It's strangeness and over-the-top-ness make it a fun viewing.
January 16, 2015
God I wish I lived in Connecticut.
½ November 14, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
August 25, 2014
Waters goes mainstream... sort of.
July 3, 2014
When you are depressed, you need a big laugh!
June 17, 2014
POLYESTER, while representing an improvement in filmmaking technique from previous John Waters' movies, is still noticeably lacking in the narrative department. I suppose that maybe his style isn't the best fit for me, but the biggest problem with this movie is that the story is rather disjointed and lopsided. A lot of time is spent building on Divine's character's frustration and torment, but the payoff of is rather short-lived and weak. Part of the reason it's like this may have something to do with the type of movie that POLYESTER is making fun of, and the satire is pretty dead-on at times, but it succumbs to a lot of the goofiness and clichés as well. As far as acting is concerned, Divine was never really the greatest actor, but she managed to put together a decent performance here, at least more so than she did in previous John Waters films. Here, she played an entirely sympathetic character. Also starring was Tab Hunter, who was a heartthrob from the 50's and was in a bunch of movies I've never seen. Obviously, it would have helped if I'd seen or heard of him before seeing this, but I can only imagine he was poking fun at his previous image and he did look like he was having a good time onscreen. Overall, POLYESTER isn't John Waters' best movie nor his worst. It's an average story with improved production values. It's also more tame than previous Waters movies, so newbies to his style wouldn't be as put-off by this as something like PINK FLAMINGOS or FEMALE TROUBLE.
½ May 9, 2014
went to premiere of this with 'smell-o-vision!
½ January 13, 2014
I honestly dont know what to think about this. I will give Waters the BOTD and just assume I liked it.
½ January 6, 2014
extremely bizarre funny
½ June 27, 2013
Wonderfully bizarre and hilarious satire--It's here tonight in original Odor-Rama!!
½ March 17, 2013
I watched this not really knowing what it was about, i obviously knew it was a John Waters movie but i wasn't sure what Divine's character was going to be or anything. All the way throughout i felt so bad for Francine, i just wanted to go to her house and rescue her. What really made me laugh was when Francine was hanging herself off the fridge and Cuddles comes in not even recognizing that and just says "lets go for a picnic. I honestly didn't know what i was watching, i haven't ever watched a 1950's melodrama about suffering housewives so i thought she was going to go and have a lesbian relationship with Cuddles halfway through. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!
March 13, 2013
One of my favorites! John Waters at his best!
January 16, 2013
A classic dark comedy
January 13, 2013
A classic from John Waters had the Odorama cards in its theater run and has it on DVD too. Divine is a housewife nursing a crush on Tab Hunter, while her domestic life falls apart. The son who stomps on women's feet is great.Stiv Bators also has a small role. I almost like Polyester more than Pink Flamingos but both are pretty awesome. A unique movie that's pretty damn funny
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