Cecil B. DeMented [2000]

John Waters spoofs independent filmmaking at its most absurd fringe with this affectionate portrait of a guerrilla filmmaking collective that declares war on Hollywood drivel. Bitchy screen queen Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith, whose kewpie doll voice and aging baby face are right at home) is kidnapped by would-be auteur Cecil (Stephen Dorff), a slogan-spouting bottle blonde with a cult-like crew of cinema outlaws called "The Sprocket Holes." Cecil has declared war on Hollywood with the ultimate underground movie, "Raving Beauty," and his reluctant star Honey soon adopts her young misfit captors like a worried Mommy as her cultural cachet rises: the falling star has turned into a cult cinema rebel. It's a bizarre revision of the Patty Hearst story (with Hearst herself in a supporting role) full of film insider jokes and '60s revolutionary references, but it's more spoof than satire. Waters's primitive style is often clumsy, and the picture moves in fits and starts, but the cast's enthusiasm brings it to life. Waters has always celebrated misfits, outcasts, and cultural rebels and their self-made families, and this is his most outrageous, anarchic such bunch in decades. Through all the shootouts, bomb throwing, and fights with angry teamsters and suburban moms, there's an odd sense of innocence to the enterprise. It's as if Waters wants to remind us: it's only a movie. --Sean Axmaker

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