***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras A-
starring Divine, Tab Hunter, Edith Massey, Stiv Bators
written and directed by John Waters
by Bryant Frazer For anyone who kept up with John Waters's gleeful forays into poor taste during the 1970s, Polyester, released at the dawn of the Reagan era, must have seemed like a change-up. It was hardly a big-budget affair, but it felt posher than the earlier, low-budget features that earned him his (dis)reputation. Those movies were filmed on grungier 16mm in the belly of Waters's Baltimore hometown, but Polyester was shot on 35mm and set in the suburbs. Famed actor-in-drag Divine was once again in front of the camera, but instead of the usual outsider role, he was playing squarely against type as neglected housewife Francine Fishpaw--and sharing star billing with 1950s/'60s heartthrob Tab Hunter. Waters introduces Francine by having his camera glide into the Fishpaws' home and up the stairs (the director's first-ever Steadicam shot) to find her dressed only in bra and girdle, bathed in a golden-hour glow, as Hunter croons lines from the title tune (lyrics by Debbie Harry): "You know about abundant women/Well, this girl only aims to please/Outside there's a load of noisy neighbours/Upstairs there's a Polyester squeeze."