Pecker (film)

Pecker is a 1998 American comedy-drama film written and directed by John Waters. Like all Waters' films, it was filmed and set in Baltimore; this film was set in the Hampden neighborhood.[5]

Pecker movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Waters
Produced by
Written byJohn Waters
Music byStewart Copeland[1]
CinematographyRobert M. Stevens
Edited byJanice Hampton
Polar Entertainment
Distributed byFine Line Features
Release date
  • September 25, 1998 (1998-09-25)
Running time
86 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[3]
Box office$2.3 million[4]

The film, starring Edward Furlong, examines the rise to fame and potential fortune of a budding photographer. Co-starring Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor, Mary Kay Place, Martha Plimpton, Brendan Sexton III, and Bess Armstrong, the film received mixed reviews from critics and was a commercial failure, grossing over $2 million[4] from a $6 million budget.[3]


In a Baltimore neighborhood known for having the thickest local accent, Pecker is an unassuming 18-year-old who works in a sandwich shop and takes photos of his loving but peculiar family and friends on the side. Pecker, so named for his childhood habit of "pecking" at his food, stumbles into fame when his work is "discovered" by a savvy New York art dealer, Rorey Wheeler. Pecker's pictures, taken with a cheap Canon Canonet 28, are grainy, out-of-focus studies of unglamorous subjects, but they strike a chord with New York art collectors.

Unfortunately, instant over-exposure has its downside. Rorey's efforts to turn Pecker into an art sensation threaten to ruin the low-key lifestyle that was his inspiration. He abandons his trusty old rangefinder camera for a new, full-featured Nikon N50. Pecker finds that his best friend, Matt, can't shoplift anymore now that Pecker's photographs have increased his visibility. Shelley, Pecker's obsessive girlfriend who runs a laundromat, seems especially distressed when the press dub her a "stain goddess" and mistake her good-natured "pin-up" poses for pornographic come-ons.

When his family is dubbed "culturally challenged" by an overzealous critic, they begin to feel the uncomfortable glare of stardom. Pecker's mother Joyce, is no longer free to dispense fashion tips to the homeless clientele at her thrift shop. Pecker's grandmother, Memama, endures public ridicule when her experience with a talking statue of the Virgin Mary is exposed on the cover of a national art magazine. Tina, Pecker's older sister, is fired from her job emceeing go-go dancing at a gay bar because Pecker's edgy photographs chronicle the sex practices of the club's patrons. Even Little Chrissy, his six-year-old sister, feels the pressure of celebrity when her eating disorder is exposed, bringing unwanted attention from nosy child welfare agencies, and she's mistakenly diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and prescribed Ritalin.

After Pecker's new-found fame disrupts the lives of his family and friends, Pecker turns the tables on the art world by refusing to participate in a scheduled show at the Whitney Museum of Art. Instead, he forces New York art collectors to come to Baltimore to see his latest photographs, which portray the same people who disparaged his family in an unflattering light, one photo shows Lynn Wentworth adjusting her breasts in a mirror.

Pecker is then asked what he plans to do next. He replies that he would like to direct a film.



On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 52% based on reviews from 46 critics.[6] On Metacritic it has a score of 66 out of 100 based on 24 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7]

Describing it as "John Waters' first stab at making a mainstream movie," Edvins Beitiks' review in The San Francisco Examiner said it "starts out well and winds up no worse than most of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood".[8] In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert noted a "tension between the gentler new Waters and his anarchic past. In the scenes in the male strip bar, for example, we keep waiting for Waters to break loose and shock us, and he never does, except with a few awkward language choices. The miraculous statue of Mary could have provided comic possibilities, but doesn't."[9] Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Pecker is "never truly funny, but it's an amusing novelty, gaining strength from smart characterizations and sly cogency about the way people are exploited under the limelight of celebrity."[10]


The soundtrack was released on September 22, 1998 by New Line Records.

  1. "Happy-Go-Lucky Me" – Paul Evans
  2. "The Love Chase" – Stewart Copeland
  3. "I'm a Nut" – Leroy Pullins
  4. "Memama" – Stewart Copeland
  5. "Uh! Oh! (Part 1)" – The Nutty Squirrels
  6. "Straight Boys" – Vicky Randle and Stewart Copeland
  7. "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" – Billy Williams
  8. "In the Mood" – Henhouse Five Plus Too (Ray Stevens)
  9. "Back to Hampden/Sneaky Shelly" – Stewart Copeland
  10. "Baltimore, You're Home to Me" – Dave Hardin
  11. "Thrift Shop Fashion Shoot" – Stewart Copeland
  12. "Don't Drop the Soap (For Anyone Else But Me)" – Stan Ridgway and Stewart Copeland
  13. "New York Montage" – Stewart Copeland
  14. "Swamp Thing" – The Grid
  15. "Woo-Hoo" – The Rock-A-Teens


  1. ^ Hornaday, Ann (September 25, 1998). "Movie review: Family values and goodness mingle with John Waters' trademark crude humor in 'Pecker". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  2. ^ "Pecker (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 13, 1998. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Pecker". October 9, 1998 – via
  4. ^ a b Pecker at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ Ollove, Michael (April 19, 1998). "Delightfully Deviant Three decades after his first freaky film, John Waters has mellowed. But as his new movie proves, his humor remains twisted, his sensibilities bizarre. He's admired from Cannes to Wisconsin". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  6. ^ "Pecker (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  7. ^ "Pecker". Metacritic.
  8. ^ "John Waters approaches mainstream with "Pecker'". SFGate.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Pecker Movie Review & Film Summary (1998)". Chicago Sun Times.
  10. ^ Peter Stack (September 25, 1998). "Poor `Pecker' Gets Exploited". SFGate.

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