Johnny Depp—already a teen icon for playing the lead on TV’s 21 Jump Street—appears as the titular bad-boy hero of Waters’s raucous, exuberant salute to the teen rock ’n’ roll films of the 1950s. What Hairspray had done for the message movie, Cry-Baby did for the likes of Rebel Without a Cause and Jailhouse Rock, with Depp playing a parentless, leather-jacketed “drape” (think “greaser”) bent on edging out his high school’s leading square for the affections of a beautiful, conflicted good girl (Amy Locane)—she too, in a typical Waters twist, orphaned under bizarre circumstances. Even when playing it soft, Waters never plays it straight, and Cry-Baby, for all its affectionate evocations of Baltimore’s past, continues the director’s fascination with the way people transform themselves (often grotesquely) for the sake of social acceptance, recognition, and fame. With supporting turns by Joe Dallesandro, Traci Lords, and Iggy Pop.
Photos by Henny Garfunkel © NBC Universal.