Director: David Wnendt
Stars: Carla Juri, Christoph Leftkowski
Rating: NR (definitely NC-17-ish)
4 (out of 5) Globes
“Wetlands” has been called a German “Porky’s” for girls. It’s not. Though its hero — rebellious teen Helen (Carla Juri) — has gotta have it, she’s also gotta have the more disgusting aspects of biology as well. In fact she's more into body grossness than the act. Helen is introduced slathering her ladyparts over the second worst toilet in the movies (after the one in “Trainspotting”). Turns out she’s just curious if strangers’ lavatory goo will actually make her sick. She’s not out trolling for tail and she has but few sexual partners. Instead she’s an amateur scientist who uses her own body to push the limits of good taste, hoping to normalize the disgusting parts of anatomy by sometimes actually rubbing viewers’ faces in it.
Based on a much tutted-about novel by German MTV star Charlotte Roche — the film opens with a quote from an outraged commentator, averring that such literature should never be filmed — “Wetlands”’ thin plot finds Helen in the hospital. Why? She was shaving the inside of her butt, and the act went gorily awry. (Among other dinner party subjects, Helen really likes going on and on and on about her hemorrhoids.) Stuck with a nasty anal fissure, she’s confined to a bed, where — in between trying to get good cell phone shots at her new deformity — she flashes back on the many, many over-the-top nasty episodes from her life.
Though first driven to her obsession by parents who are repressive (mom) and overly hedonistic (dad), her interests exist to shock everyone, including those in the audience. She takes giddy delight in, say, seeing which vegetable goes better when lathed over her nether regions. The film is right along with her: It’s an energetic, rollicking, sometimes phantasmagoric ride whose glee is so evident that even its grossest depravity is strangely innocent. There’s a genuinely novel druggie episode that keeps going, and it’s the kind of movie that starts with the opening credits of “Fight Club” reimagined as being about a bug-laden pubic hair on a toilet seat — which is to say, it’s not like many movies.
There’s some token stock parts here. Helen falls for Robin (Christoph Leftkowski), a shy male nurse who may be the one who tames her. But he has his share of kinks, and even this romance stays cheerfully transgressive. It also helps that the filmmakers found the ideal star. The curly-topped Juri is supremely game, not only with her body but in throwing herself enthusiastically into every act, like a kid who can’t wait to burn more ants. She never lets up and never does the film — until it sort of does, in an ending that throws an emotional hail mary that was never needed. “Wetlands” is a machine, and as such there’s no way to end it without it being a total bummer. But what preceded its final moments is enough of a grimy bacchanalia that most is forgiven.
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