Inexplicable indie idol Vincent Gallo makes his directing debut with this pretentious fairy-tale romance between a tortured ex-con and a tap-dancing teen. Fresh out of prison and without a place to pee, lonely loser Billy Brown (Gallo) is an oozing sore of self-loathing and explosive rage whose troubles finding a toilet lead him to a store-front dance studio. He's under a lot of pressure, and not just from his bladder: Billy has told his parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) that he's married and has a lucrative government job. Hoping to make this series of whoppers credible, he kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci), a pouty little tap student, and alternately bullies and cajoles her into pretending that she's his adoring wife. For all its art-movie pretensions, which include picture-within-picture flashbacks and a variety of self-conscious lighting and framing effects, Gallo's film is at heart a freak show. The lowlife itinerary includes the obligatory bowling alley, Denny's, various back streets, a bus station, hot sheets hotel and downscale strip joint -- this one owned by a washed-up football player seen cavorting half-naked with a hard-faced bevy of topless tarts. The tour is populated by the likes of Billy's retarded pal Goon (Kevin Corrigan), a sleazy bookie (Mickey Rourke), giggling floozy Wendy (Rosanna Arquette), who was Billy's grade-school crush, brain-damaged bowling alley manager Sonny (Jan-Michael Vincent) and, of course, Billy's parents: Mom's a hypocritical harridan obsessed with football, dad's a pervy former lounge singer who strangled Billy's childhood puppy and never misses an opportunity to put the nasty grab on Layla. Both are oblivious to Billy. Gallo's poor, poor pitiful me routine wears very thin, very fast, but Ricci is incandescent, a softly-glowing dumpling of a dream-girl in powder-blue fishnet tights and sparkly tap shoes: She's the diamond in the dirt.