Pecker (1998) from Tuna

Pecker (1998) is written and directed by John Waters, and is far tamer than the title would suggest, and tamer than his usual efforts. The major critics say two stars, but IMDB readers thought better of it at 6.6/10. I suppose that means that I am in the minority in enjoying this film. Pecker, so named because he pecks at his food, is a sandwich shop employee who is trying to turn his hobby of photography into a career. His father runs a crab house/tavern, his mother runs a thrift shop for homeless people, his big sister is MC for a gay male strip club, his baby sister is a sugar addict and very hyper, and his girlfriend is very serious about managing a laundromat. Pecker shoots his images in his Baltimore neighborhood, and finds art in lifes ordinary events. He also finds a very naked Mo Fischer peeking through the window of a nude bar featuring stripping dykes who insult the men who are watching. Note that Mo has a total of two credits at IMDB, but three names. Mo Fischer is the official IMDB name, but they say she sometimes is known as Maureen Fischer, and sometimes as Maureen Fisher. I guess in this case one and one make three.
Pecker has a one man show in the sandwich shop where he works, and is discovered by a New York gallery owner. He is an instant smash, but when he returns home, his former friends have turned on him, his girlfriend is furious, and he has lost his inspiration. This film dares to hold many sacred cows up for ridicule, and I suppose it was the anti-establishment aspect that won me over. They go after the New York art scene, child protective services, religious zealots, and many others.  


see the main commentary
I must warn you that there is not an over-abundance of plot, and the excitement curve is pretty much a straight line. Pecker is low key, and slides through his world without breaking a sweat, but many crirics and IMDb members joined me in enjoying it. It is billed as a comedy, but I think it will attain cult status. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length director commentary

  • snapshot gallery of Pecker's work, with comments by the actual photographer

Scoopy's notes:

The film suffered from incorrect expectations. Waters fans didn't like it because it was missing his usual sense of humor and his glorification of the grotesque and outré. Waters haters hated it without watching it. It was too tame for the Waters set, and too outlandish for middle America, so it could not find a mainstream audience.

Those who did like it are those who approached it with an open mind and no expectations, and they tended to like it quite a bit, so Tuna is right in that it meets my perfect definition of a cult film, which is "one which is not liked by many, but those who like it tend to REALLY like it a lot".

Unfortunately, I didn't like it, but I was one who suffered from expectations. I used to enjoy the way Waters liked to fuck with us, and I don't much care for his new maturity. I liked him just fine immature.


The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. a solid 66% positive overall, but a weak 33% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6, Apollo users a very impressive 85/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... weak box office. Made for $6m, US gross was only $2.279. 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+.

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