In fact, A Dirty Shame explodes with sex: rampant and unquenchable desire, every extremity of bizarre fetish and, most notably, sex addiction, which Waters elevates to a religious cult, complete with savior and disciples. Shepherded by supersexed Ray-Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville), Waters' addicts seek not merely to spread their pathology as widely as possible but also to discover their holy grail: a sex act that has not yet been performed.
Sylvia Stickles (the inimitable Tracey Ullman), a dowdy wife and mother in Baltimore, is the sort of woman who bats away a morning come-on from her square husband (Chris Isaak) with "Can't you see I'm making scrapple?" Sylvia delivers the breakfast to daughter Clarice (Selma Blair), who is padlocked in her velvety-lush bedroom. (A dedicated exhibitionist, Clarice has had her breasts enlarged to voluminous proportions, and it seems she broke a few decency laws down at the biker bar.)
On her way to work, Sylvia suffers a mild concussion and is overcome with sexual desire. In midswoon, she meets Ray-Ray and discovers her penchant for a certain sexual practice. Just like that, she's a sex addict, fishing a leopard-print miniskirt from a charity bin and terrorizing the community in search of a fix. And the community isn't having it. Already incensed by other neighborhood sex fiends, Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd) organizes a decency rally, picketing the streets with signs reading "I hate sex," "I'm not horny" and "I'm not either." The problem? Big Ethel is Sylvia's mother.
Chaos ensues. No sooner has Sylvia joined the sex-addict movement, bonded with and released her boobular daughter and fomented a sexual rave down at the biker bar than she is again knocked in the head and returned suddenly to her prim ways. Husband and mother pull her in one direction; Ray-Ray and his disciples tug in the other. The whole thing explodes in a circus of pawing, humping and joyless ecstasy. It's not supposed to be sexy, and it isn't. But it isn't even fun.
A Dirty Shame is a spirited movie, and it has a great deal of fun at the expense of both repressed sex-haters (here called "neuters") and people for whom sex is the alpha and omega of existence. But that's all the movie does -- make fun. It lacks depth, real characters, plot and meaning. Every time Waters approaches a stance -- on sexuality or anything else (though there is little else) -- he backs off and makes a joke.
But to ask Waters to take a stand for anything is to misunderstand him. He's just having fun, and his fun is often delicious. In this pointless, one-joke movie, though, it falls flat long before the party's over.