The year is 1951 and Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker is the name on everybody’s lips in John Water’s musical, mad cap, do-wop movie Cry-Baby. He also happens to be my favorite bad boy, Johnny Depp. Cry-Baby is a bad boy in Baltimore and a rebel without a cause, leading his gang of “drapes” through a Square’s world. Of course, Mr. Baby (Depp) falls in love with one of the squares, sweet Allison (Amy Locane). Peril, jailtime, musical numbers, and chicken competitions ensue as our modern Romeo and Juliet fight to be together in a world trying to tear them apart.
It spawned a Broadway musical, hurled Waters into Hollywood budget territory, and broke Johnny Depp’s matinee idol reputation, shepherded him into the weirdo, queerdo, mainstream. It’s a celebration of everything corny, stupid, and romantic about the 1950’s.
In typical John Waters fashion, there is a collection of colorful characters and awesome outcast actors. As the Drapes, the perpetually pregnant Pepper (Ricki Lake), the aptly named Hatchet-Face (Kim McGuire), and too sexy for her own good Wanda (Traci Lords), Ramona and Belvedere Ricketts (Susan Tyrrell and Iggy Pop) are as delightful as they are scary. There’s a cameo from a young Willem Dafoe as “Hateful Guard” and Mink Stole as Hatchet-Face’s iron lung bound mother.
Stole particularly shines when her entire performance is filmed through a mirror while she chain-smokes cigarettes. And don’t forget Lenora (Kim Webb), who is obsessed with Cry-Baby and will stop at NOTHING to stop him and Allison from being together.
Waters, our Pope of Trash, is notorious for casting folks on the fringe of society. It’s why we love him and it’s what makes his movies so successful. They’re honest and without pretense. Real life weirdos embracing movies as a creative outlet. Because of that, I’m here to celebrate some of the strange surrounding Cry-Baby.