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Film / The Dirt

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Motley Crue at its wildest.

The Dirt: The Unbelievable Story of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band - Mötley Crüe, or simply The Dirt, is a 2019 biographical comedy-drama about glam rock and Hair Metal legends Mötley Crüe. Based on the 2001 autobiographical book of the same name, the film takes a look at the band's formation in the early 1980s, then moves on to their glory days in the mid-'80s, as well as the low points each of the band's members experienced along the way. It also covers the band's struggles to stay relevant in the Grunge and alternative-dominated 1990s music scene.

The Dirt was released on Netflix on March 22, 2019, and was directed by Jeff Tremaine, who is best known for his work on the Jackass series. The film stars Daniel Webber as singer Vince Neil, Douglas Booth as bassist Nikki Sixx, Iwan Rheon as guitarist Mick Mars, Colson Baker as drummer Tommy Lee, David Costabile as manager Doc McGhee, and Pete Davidson as record executive Tom Zutaut. Also appearing in the film are Leven Rambin as Vince's wife Sharise, Kathryn Morris as Nikki's mother Deana, Tony Cavalero as a wasted, dress-wearing Ozzy Osbourne, and Max Milner as Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley.

TROPES! TROPES! TROPES! Tropes at the devil!

  • The '70s: The start of the decade has Nikki's rough childhood, and by 1978 he's hearing the call to start his own band after three years as a hungry "gun for hire".
  • The '80s: This is the biopic of one of the decade's biggest bands, and it's played straight with all the big hair, debauchery, and, in one scene, moral panic that defined the decade.
  • The '90s: To hammer the point home that glam rock was rendered passe in the early '90s, an image of Pearl Jam's debut album Ten can be seen outside the studio while the band impatiently waits for the increasingly difficult Vince. It helps that it's raining outside — much like it often does in grunge's birthplace of Seattle.
  • Abusive Parents: Deana is a hard-drinking, neglectful mother to Nikki, while her boyfriends and husbands are typically abusive drunkards who vent out their anger at the boy then known as Frank Ferrana Jr. As for Frank Sr., who left the family when Nikki was two, he brusquely dismisses Nikki when he tries to get in touch with him, telling him to never call again.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The memoir was published in 2002 and ends on a Bittersweet Ending, where Tommy quits the band and ends his friendship with Nikki, but the other three members are together and more focused on the band's musical goals, and all of the boys are grown up and in stable, family-oriented relationships; and Tommy and Nikki, after a year of not speaking, happily bury the hatchet when they realize that their children will be attending the same school and are becoming friends. Tommy rejoined the band two years after publication, so the film streamlines and resolves their drama early, and ends on an unambiguously triumphant note with the band touring together again.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The real Tom Zutaut was a pudgy man of average height who speaks in a high-pitched voice. He's played by Pete Davidson, who stands 6-foot-2, has a slim build, and speaks in a baritone voice.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Lampshaded in one of the Breaking the Fourth Wall scenes, as Mick explains that Doug Thaler, who co-managed Motley Crue in real life, is not included in the film, and that Doc McGhee will essentially be a composite of his real-life equivalent and Thaler.
    • Nikki Sixx's girlfriends during the 1980s, most notably fellow musicians Lita Ford and Vanity, are not featured, and neither is Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt, whom he was married to from 1989 to 1996.
    • Likewise, Nikki's rough upbringing is frequently referenced, but we don't see him as a father, as he and Brandt had three children between 1991 and 1995. In fact, he says that the Crue is the only family he's known during the scene where he gets the entire band back together.
      • Nikki's grandparents who raised him when he wasn't with his mother and who he loved very much, aren't mentioned either much less make an appearance.
    • Despite covering the events of the mid-'90s, there is not a peep mentioned about Tommy's marriage to Pamela Anderson, may it be about their infamous leaked sex tape or the allegations that he was an abusive husband toward her. It is, however, established elsewhere that Tommy's marriage to Heather ended because of another woman, and that his explosive temper could cause him to hit someone he's dating.
    • Allan Coffman, who managed the Crue in their pre-fame days, is not included, as Doc is portrayed as the man who gave them some much-needed direction as their first manager.
    • The film implies Sharise is Vince’s first wife and that Skylar is his first child. He actually had already been married once before, had a child with that wife, and had a child while he was still in High School three years before he joined Motley Crue.
    • Mick Mars is generally shown to be, while not immune to the Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll surrounding him, the least-messed up member of the band, with his major personal problems springing from his health problems and arthritic handicap. No mention is made of his own difficult home life and terrible relationship with his own children, including the daughter he cut ties with and refuses to support financially, despite her inheriting the same debilitating condition as him. The band's frequent attempts to replace him, which were not public knowledge at the time but still existed as persistent rumor, are completely unaddressed. On a more positive note, the fact that he was the only member of the band to realize that the Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll were gonna kill him if he didn't get control of them and sober up on his own isn't addressed either.
  • Addled Addict: Nikki becomes so deeply addicted to heroin that he can't get through Tommy's wedding without being strung out, and he starts having to inject heroin into his penis because the rest of his veins are shot. Though the other members' addictions are omitted from the film, in real life, Mick became so addicted to alcohol that he became incredibly bloated and had to be propped up during photoshoots, Vince would show up late to performances in a bathrobe because of his own heroin addiction (and later toured with an addiction to sleeping pills), and Tommy had to hide his speedball addiction from Heather Locklear.
  • Age Lift: Zigzagged with Skylar, whom Sharise appears to be pregnant with in a scene from December 1984, shortly before the car crash that killed Razzle. A scene from 1986 shows Skylar being around 2-years-old at the time, while she appears to be a couple years older in 1987, when Vince learns of Nikki's "death" on television. Finally, she still looks no older than five during the scenes (circa 1993 or 1994) where she's in the hospital, dying of cancer. The real Skylar was born in March 1991 and died in August 1995.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Tommy.
  • The Alcoholic: It's practically given for everyone in the Crue, but Nikki's mother is portrayed from the earliest parts of the film as someone who loves booze and partying more than she does caring for her troubled son.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • During the scene where Mick Mars auditions for the band (which is supposed to be in early 1981), Tommy is seen wearing a Hulkamania t-shirt. Technically, Hulkamania only started running wild in 1984, when Hulk Hogan returned to the then-WWF for the first time as a babyface and defeated The Iron Sheik to kick off a four-year run with the WWF Championship.
    • Shortly after, the band attends a pool party to recruit Vince as their lead singer, and he's with his old band Rock Candy, singing a cover of Billy Squier's "My Kind Of Lover." That song was released in November 1981, several months after Vince was hired by the Crue in real life.
  • Artistic License – History: Several examples.
    • Nikki and Mick met by chance in the liquor store Nikki worked at, long before Mick was recruited for the band. Mick even assumed that Nikki recognized his ad, but it was actually Tommy, making their reunion even more kismet.
    • Vince is shown in the movie doing the deed with Tom Zutaut's girlfriend backstage at the Forum in Los Angeles. While the book version of The Dirt suggests that they did have sex and that the woman was wearing a leopard-print bikini top, the actual incident happened at the Us Festival, not at the Forum.
    • Similarly, the real Zutaut recalled that he wasn't too upset when he found out that Vince Neil screwed his girlfriend behind his back, as it wasn't a serious relationship. Pete Davidson, as Zutaut, says that it "hurt really bad" when he learned about it "many years later."
    • Tommy Lee's marriage to Elaine Starchuk (aka "Honey" in the book) in 1984 and divorce a year later is treated as an engagement that falls apart when she repeatedly insults his mother. In the film, Starchuk is renamed Roxie, and Tommy's wedding with Heather Locklear is treated as his first.
    • In real life, the Crue's upper management had to outright manipulate Vince's return to the band, concerned about the dismal sales prospects of John Corabi's tenure. All of the members pushed out of loyalty to Corabi or a lack of trust in Vince's presence. Vince himself was hardly enthused, and it took months before the band's relationship was repaired. The film instead portrays the Crue as unilaterally desiring Vince's return, working together to rescue him from a bar after sitting down with a heart-to-heart.
    • Elektra dropped Motley Crue and gave them their publishing rights in 1998, as their six-album deal with the label expired on a down note — the poor-selling 1997 album Generation Swine. The movie suggests that the turnover took place a few years earlier after the similarly poor sales of their 1994 self-titled album. This does, however, fit in with the movie's earlier mention of a five-album contract with Elektra, further backing up some reviewers' observations that Generation Swine was Adapted Out in the film.
    • In the movie, the scenes where Vince meets Sharise and eventually marries her appear to take place in 1984, and she's shown to be pregnant with Skylar in December of that year. In real life, Vince and Sharise married in 1987, and Skylar was born in 1991.
    • Tommy is shown meeting Heather at the December 1984 party that ended with Vince drunkenly crashing his Ford Pantera and killing its passenger, Razzle. They actually met at an REO Speedwagon concert, though the film does get one detail right — Tommy did indeed mistake Heather Locklear for The Fall Guy actress Heather Thomas when they first met.
      • In the film, Tommy and Heather's otherwise decent marriage ends because of his infidelity, and he refers to her as "the one that got away." In real life, he had been relieved when they finally divorced, as their marriage had been on the rocks for years due to Heather not wanting children, mutual narcissism and personality differences, and inability to prioritize each other over their careers.
    • Allegedly, Nikki was partying with several mainstays of the Sunset Strip scene, including Slash and Steven Adler of Guns N' Roses and Robbin Crosby of Ratt when he had his near-fatal OD in late 1987. In the film, he's partying with a group of sleazy, yet nondescript junkies and dealers.
    • In the film, Nikki fires Doc McGhee because he arranged a meeting between Nikki and his mother without asking his permission. In real life, Nikki still fired Doc, but it was because the manager wasn't being 100% honest to the Crue while at the same time, favoring his newer, much better-behaved clients Bon Jovi during the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
    • While the final scene says that Motley Crue kept on playing together for the next two decades after their reunion, "together" happens to be the operative word as far as this trope goes. Tommy quit the Crue in 1999 and was replaced by Randy Castillo, who died in 2002. He then was replaced by Samantha Maloney, before Tommy rejoined in 2004.
  • Back from the Dead: After overdosing on heroin, Nikki's heart stops beating and he's close to being officially declared dead, but thanks to an insistent paramedic who won't let a big rock star die under his watch, Nikki bolts back to life and returns home, practically back to normal...and promptly shoots up once again. The near-death experience, however, ultimately convinces him to get clean and invite the rest of the band to join him in rehab.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Vince grows one after the series of unfortunate events that befalls him in the early '90s — his divorce from Sharise, his departure from Motley Crue, and Skylar's ultimately fatal cancer battle.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Nikki loses it when Doc, without his permission, arranges for his estranged mother, Deana, to visit. Not aware of (or not willing to recognize) his legal name change, Deana repeatedly calls Nikki "Frankie," which causes him to smash the bottle of Jack Daniel's he was holding and scream "THAT'S NOT MY FUCKING NAME!" before angrily firing Doc and storming back to his hotel room.
    • Tommy punches his then-fiancee Roxie after she stabs him in the back with a pen and repeatedly calls his mother a "cunt."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Frequently invoked in the film by several characters, including all four band members and Doc, who address the audience in certain scenes to provide more context.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mick Mars. Downplayed compared to his real-life equivalent, but very effectively Lampshaded by Nikki in the introductory narration when he calls Mick an "alien."
  • Call-Back: When the time comes for Elektra to give Motley Crue their publishing rights, Nikki and Tom Zutaut meet at the same bar, at the same table where they first met several years prior.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mick. He definitely isn't old by most standards at the time he joins the band, but at 30-years-old in 1981, he's got over a decade on Vince and Tommy and is seven years older than Nikki.
  • Creator Backlash: An in-universe example: Vince starts to develop a case of this while recording Theatre of Pain. When Doc assures him that "Home Sweet Home" and "Smokin' in the Boys Room" are likely to be hits, he cynically retorts that those are the only strong tracks on the album. Later, when the band begins work on what would eventually become their self-titled New Sound Album, he opposes the move toward a more grunge/alternative based sound, denouncing it as stupid.
  • Darkest Hour: The first half of the film focuses on Motley Crue's rise to fame as they have more than their fill of groupies, booze, and drugs and, in Doc's words, spend their money faster than they earn it. The second half, however, sees Nikki battling a heroin addiction, Vince dealing with divorce and the death of his young daughter (while, in between that, quitting or getting fired from the band, depending on whom you ask), Mick's medical issues continuing to take their toll on him, and Tommy's marriage to Heather Locklear ending when he gets busted for having an affair. Add to the rise of grunge and the fall of hair metal, and things aren't really looking up for the Crue from the early '90s until the classic lineup's 1997 reunion.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mick. He speaks softly and carries a big snark.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Mick is a man of few words and gets right to the point.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When Tommy is introducing his parents to his fiancee and his bandmates, Doc asks Nikki if he'd like to invite his family to a show one day. Nikki replies with a bit of sarcasm that he thinks it would be a "great idea." This doesn't hit home until Doc surprises Nikki by inviting his mother, whom he is absolutely not ready to see after years of estrangement.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": You do not ever call Nikki Sixx by his birth name of Frank Ferrana. See Berserk Button.
  • Dress Rehearsal Video: One of the scenes in the credits shows the actors of the movie playing out of costume and then in costume.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Vince, when his girlfriend drives him to his first audition.
    Tommy: Check out the blonde.
    Mick: Which one?
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Tommy may be a typical rock star with an appetite for booze and drugs, but he won't stand for anyone, even his own fiancee at the time, insulting his mother.
  • Fan Disservice: A stoned, whacked-out Ozzy Osbourne in a dress with nothing underneath, mooning an elderly couple as he prepares to disgust everyone at the pool with his antics.
    • Lots of beautiful strippers showing their goods throughout the movie? Thanks! Seeing Tommy Lee puke on one? No thanks!!!
  • Fanservice: Served up in heaping helpings due to the plethora of groupies and strippers the band associates with.
  • Fanservice Extra: There are a lot of naked women causally in the background and wandering around the film.
  • Handicapped Badass: Mick has a debilitating form of arthritis that is calcifying his bones with each passing day, yet still manages a career of being a guitarist in one of the world's hottest bands.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Nikki and Tommy refer to themselves as a married couple and are extremely close in both the memoir and the adaptation.
  • Hope Spot: After their car accident, Razzle says that was a close one and laughs. This moment turns out to be just Vince Neil hallucinating from the impact; Razzle was killed instantly.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: Right before Mick joins the band, Nikki and Tommy are jamming with a rhythm guitarist whose chops leave a lot to be desired. Needless to say, he gets blown away the moment Mick plugs in, and gets asked to "pack up your toys and go home." It doesn't help that the failed auditionee disrespects Mick multiple times by calling him old.
  • Hypocrite: Ozzy's advice to the Crue as a veteran rock star who's been around and back with Black Sabbath and as a solo act — "have fun, but know when to say when." When nobody has any coke for him to snort after giving this brief nugget of wisdom, he proceeds to snort a line of ants, pee on the poolside, and lick his own piss (and that of Nikki's), completely disgusting everyone around him.
  • Immodest Orgasm: The prologue of the movie shows Tommy giving oral sex to a groupie, making her have a squirting orgasm.
  • In Love with Love: In line with the memoir, Tommy is obsessed with girls and finds a new soulmate around every corner, and he declares his intent to marry just about every woman he dates. Unfortunately, it's Played for Drama when his marriage implodes due to his constant straying and skirt-chasing.
  • Kill It with Fire: Tommy is shown killing cockroaches with an Aerosol Flamethrower.
  • Large Ham: Ozzy Osbourne. The band themselves onstage:
    Nikki: The punks are going all minimalist. We need to go in the opposite direction.
  • Lighter and Softer: As controversial as the film's material is, it cuts out a lot of graphic and debauched content from the memoir; for example, the famous "day in the life" sequence would only be accurate if every other minute saw Tommy doing hard drugs. Furthermore, all of the members of the band had addiction issues, though only Nikki's are given focus in the film, and removes much of the bitchy, cutthroat band dynamic that the members said was crucial to their success and longevity. Though the film still retains the book's intent as an irreverent and subversive play on the typical band biography, it does streamline the events into more of a straightforward found family narrative.
  • Love at First Sight: Tommy tells Heather that he's in love with her within one minute of meeting her.
  • Mood Whiplash: Nikki being declared dead and being saved by an Epi shot to the heart is very tense. Nikki then delicately saying “ow” is hilarious.
  • Mr. Fanservice: It's made clear several times that the women love Vince, who typically performs while shirtless or with a wide-open vest or jacket.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted by Tommy Lee and Tom Zutaut. Subverted by Nikki Sixx, whose birth name is Frank, and Hanoi Rocks' Nicholas Dingley, who goes by the name Razzle.
  • Only Sane Man: For all his unusual quirks and snarky comments, Mick is ironically the "sanest" member of the band, in the sense that he is never shown losing his temper and is generally unfazed by all the drug and alcohol-fueled fun, and later on, the drama going on around him. Hell, he even volunteers to replace the strung-out Nikki as Tommy's best man at his wedding.
  • Oh, Crap!: Nikki's heroin dealer has this reaction when the heroin he sells Nikki nearly kills him, telling everyone the party's over.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Nikki sounds very British when he says “here’s my theory” in the band naming scene and yells at Deana in the hotel scene.
  • Please Wake Up: Vince says this to Razzle after their car accident, thinking he fell asleep unaware he's very much dead.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The band name says it all, and Doc lampshades this as he talks about how hard it is to manage a bunch of "idiots" like the Crue. At the start of the movie, Nikki likewise refers to Motley Crue as being more of a "gang" than a band.
  • Really Gets Around: Tommy's penchant for fooling around on the road is well-documented, and Nikki does hook up with Tommy's then-fiancee Roxie right before he's due to introduce her to his parents (in real life, she hooked up with Vince multiple times as well), but Vince takes this trope up to eleven, losing count of how many women he's had sex with on tour. In the film, he's seen having sex with a random partygoer's girlfriend, one of the band's early groupies (before he gets busted by his then-girlfriend), and Tom Zutaut's girlfriend. In his Breaking the Fourth Wall moment, Zutaut says that you should never leave your girlfriend alone with Motley Crue, but as the film suggests, it's more like "don't ever leave your girlfriend alone with Vince Neil," to be more specific.
  • Team Dad: Mick Mars. He’s notably older than the other three, is not a man of many words, but knows exactly what to say at the right moment.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nikki Sixx (then Frank Ferrano, Jr.) delivers one to his mother after having her arrested:
    Deana: Why are you doing this? I'm your mother!
    14 year old Frank: Are you fucking kidding me? I wanted a mom, but you only care about yourself and all of your stupid boyfriends. I'm not gonna see you, I'm not gonna answer to you. You're just gonna leave me alone...Deana.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: How Vince's temporary departure/dismissal is depicted.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: In abundance. It would be hard to find a scene in the movie which is not about this.
  • Shout-Out: Nikki being saved from the dead with an Epi shot to the heart is almost identical to the iconic scene from Pulp Fiction.
  • Stress Vomit: Tommy Lee has one out of stage fright before Crue's first show.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: All the members of the Crue view themselves as this, but especially Nikki, looking back with embarrassment on all the friends, relatives, fans, and professionals whose love and support were repaid with their bad attitudes, atrocious behavior, addiction, and betrayal.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Tommy goes into a day in the life of being on the Crue. Wake up in a hotel room handcuffed with no memory how he got there, go to the show, blast the drums, go out partying until he gets so bad Doc has to punch him out and handcuff him to the bed, and he does it all over again.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Angered by her nonstop insults against his mother, Tommy punches his then-fiancee as the rest of the band looks on in shock. note 
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Young Nikki trashes his room, takes a switchblade out and slices his arm to get his mother arrested.