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For a John Waters film (well known for the films Pink Flamingos and Serial Mom), this is not a thought-provoking, daring feature. It’s so conventional and mellow by other standards, that some people may see it as dull. But it’s not that simple a summary.
Despite toning down his offbeat vision, Pecker still has a wicked sensibility to the eye. The main character (Edward Furlong) acquires the nickname of Pecker because of a tendency to peck at food. He works at a fast-food café in Baltimore, yet has the aspirations of being a top photographer. He takes candid shots of family, friends and nature. He is generally a goofy and engaging person.
The people around Pecker are interesting characters. Amongst them are his best friend Matt (Brendan Sexton III), a likeable guy who sees shoplifting as an artform of the highest quality. There is Pecker’s older sister Tina (Martha Plimpton), a bar manager at a local gay bar, and younger sister Chrissy (Lauren Hulsey), a hyperactive kid who provides amusing moments throughout the film. Pecker’s girlfriend Shelley (Christina Ricci) is the manager of a laundromat and takes her job very seriously. These people, his parents, and other locals, make interesting photo subjects for Pecker.
With total innocence, he puts together a little gallery at the café in which he works. Amongst his varied shots are pubic hairs, copulating rats and shoplifting in action. He gets “discovered” by a Manhattan art dealer Rorey Wheeler (Lili Taylor) who happens to be in Baltimore at the time. She thinks that Pecker is a genius and offers to represent him in New York. She coerces him into a big-time gallery show and lands him on the cover of art magazines. This is all too overwhelming for Pecker and his oddball collection of family and friends. The Whitney Museum wants to give him a show.
Waters depicts the sociological differences between New York’s trendy scene and the sweet, friendly life that Pecker leads in Baltimore. To see all his entourage discovering New York is sometimes hilarious. There is a cost to all this adulation for Pecker. His innocence is corrupted and his family becomes affected in undesirable ways. Even Shelley becomes suspicious of Rorey’s intentions for Pecker.
Christina Ricci shows her acting strength when unleashing her sarcastic humour on the laundromat’s customers. Other good performances come from Lili Taylor, Lauren Hulsey and MARTHA Plimpton. The music from ex-Police member Stewart Copeland is extremely good and appropriate, in using several amusingly goofy songs to capture the situations. Generally, it’s an entertaining story, but one which may have been developed, or with situations accentuated, further.