In one sense, Dirty Girl could be seen as a pro-abstinence tale. Danielle (Juno Temple) is an anachronistic high school girl whose daily routine is less occupied with academics and more focused on designating her sexual pray, humping them in car, and then dumping them on the way to her next conquest. Because of these actions, and her outspokenness in the required Sex Education class – nee Lifestyle Choices – the principal labels her a “dirty girl” and demotes her to Special Education – or rather Challengers! – where she’s paired with Clark, an overweight homosexual boy. Together, they are tasked with raising Joan – a bag of flower with an anthropomorphic, Sharpie-drawn smile.

At times, the narrative is a bit wonky, but the writer and director seem rather self-aware of this. There are poignant, heartfelt moments in this film, and they come sandwiched between musical interludes and hyperbolic cartoonishness, most notably in the form of Joseph (Dwight Yoakam) as Clark’s uber-conservative father who simultaneously frustrated, angry, and confused about his son’s transgressions. The verdict that Clark is “sixty-five percent” homosexual prompts Joseph to threaten to send Clark to military school – despite the irony that he might be the most popular person in a school sans females – and encourages Clark to up his “straightness” to “sixty percent.” In theory, he wants to accomplish this by hooking up with “the class whore,” Danielle.

Despite its often silly moments, the cleverness behind Dirty Girl is its look at conservatism. The film is set in 1987 at the height Reagan’s second term. The aforementioned principal’s office is decorated with mini American flags, and a portrait of the fortieth President keeps watch over the office. His figure stoic and his smile – at the time – one of confidence and success, though we now know it might have been more the result of senility. But, this is the point of the movie: the illusions we create. The commentary is made subtly and with humor, but the euphemizing of Sex Ed to Lifestyle Choices reflects a time of voluntary ignorance as well as a time of subjugation.

In other words, eliding “Sex Education” is to elide sex itself and replace it with abstinence. This is still a rather relevant issue today in that a number of sex education programs are solely touting abstinence as a method of prevention. Moreover, the title “Lifestyle Choices” also implies correct and incorrect decisions. And, if one makes an incorrect choice – i.e. sex – then that person becomes an outsider, a dirty girl, a Challenger!

Like any film, this one needs conflict, and the primary one exists between Danielle and her mother, Sue-Ann (Milla Jovovich), a former high school “dirty girl” who got pregnant and had to drop out her senior year. As Clark and Daniel fulfill an assignment of putting together Joan’s (inspired by Jett or Crawford – not quite clear) family tree, Daniel yearns for a father figure – and Sue-Ann’s current boyfriend cum Mormon fiancé (William H. Macy) just doesn’t cut it. This is due in part to his two children: one a young girl who won’t stay out of Danielle’s things; the other a young boy who Daniel has “fluffed.” More importantly, Ray (Macy) represents religious hypocrisy. It’s probably no coincidence that Ray is Mormon given our current, most-likely Republican Presidential candidate, but his religious convictions go out the window and the focus shifts from caring about the wanderlusting runaway Daniel, and more about whether or not Sue-Ann will still marry him. There’s also probably no coincidence that Ray is a bit of a flip-flopper, but I digress.

Feeling a need to find that missing guidance in her life, Danielle and Clark take off to Fresno to find out biological father Danny (Tim McGraw). The outcome is tragic and depressing, but it creates a bond between Daniel and her mother. The ending isn’t super happy, but it’s appropriately cloying in its finale. And, I think this is by thematic design. Throughout, it’s unclear what genre Dirty Girl is trying to satisfy. it’s a dark comedy, musical, drama, satire, and farce, but overall, it works and offers a rather contemporary examination about how history repeats, regardless of whether we mock it, satirize it, or even acknowledge it.