Monday Movie: Dick, by David Bax
Andrew Fleming’s Dick, just like Bruce McCulloch’s Superstar, is a slightly too-weird-for-this-world comedy that came out amidst the glut of great movies in 1999. Both underperformed at the box office and both have since accumulated minor cult followings, though nothing on the level of what they deserve. In Dick’s case, that may be partially due to the inherent cultural sexism that leads us to undervalue art that appears to be aimed at young women. Ironically, that same tendency to underestimate girls is the source of much of the comedy of Dick.
Dick tells the story of the Watergate scandal and the subsequent downfall of the Nixon (Dan Hedaya here) presidency. Only, like a sugar high version of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, it reimagines it from the point of view of two D.C.-area teenage girls (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) who not only bear witness to the crimes and shenanigans but, in many cases, are actually the causes of them. It’s an intriguing, clever and ridiculously funny alternate history.
In perhaps the film’s best ongoing joke, Woodward and Bernstein (Will Ferrell and, coincidentally, McCulloch) are characterized as petty incompetents. Fleming commits to the conceit to the point of actually framing their scenes to look like similar ones in All the President’s Men, with the low office ceilings with rows of fluorescent lights reaching back toward the horizon. It’s just one of many clues that Dick has far more brains than its reputation would suggest.
It’s been a while since I saw Dick, so I was surprised when you talked about it being aimed at teenage girls. They are the main characters, but the movie’s reason for existence is the Watergate scandal which teenagers of the present (at the time of release) would have little interest in. But that could just be what I remember of it and unrepresentative of the total screentime.
I may be reacting more to the marketing of the film at the time.