TIFF '11 Review: Chloe Moretz Is Trapped In The Unclean, Clammy Coming-Of-Age Indie 'Hick'

by James Rocchi
September 14, 2011 2:15 AM
29 Comments
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Later, there will be a brief discussion of how literature is not film and how some actions and themes do not survive translation from the page to the big screen because our mind can better deal with envisioning them than it can with actually seeing them Before that, though I feel I have to pause and note that "Hick," adapting Andrea Portes' novel for the screen under the direction of Derick Martini ("Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire," "Lymelife"), is one of the most unclean and clammy films I've ever had to endure at a film festival. Not because it was incompetent and not because it deals with violent and sexual material but, rather, because it is both incompetent in general and even more incompetent specifically when it is concerned with violent and sexual material. We're supposed to be watching the cross-country adventures of 13-year-old Luli (Chloe Moretz, who clearly needs to fire both her management and her parents) as she sets out for Las Vegas and leaves her drunkard parents behind in Nebraska. What we get is a chronicle of physical abuse, drug abuse, murder and sexual assault all involving a minor, which then tries to lighten the mood with cutaways to Luli's sketches and a jaunty score with pedal steel guitar accents.

Chloe Moretz is as charismatic and talented as ever, but, much like "Kick-Ass," she is trapped in an idiotically foul and shoddy script. Posing and preening in a tank-top and panties, Luli poses and plays with a gun she was given for her birthday -- quoting "Dirty Harry" and "Sunset Boulevard," winking into the mirror. And indeed, that winking is what undermines "Hick," as the whole film does it. Yes, Luli gets a pistol in the film's first five minutes as a 13th birthday present but -- wink -- she looks so charming brandishing it. Yes, people die, but -- wink -- Luli gets to be happy. Yes, Luli is raped but -- wink -- all we see is rustling leaves in a cornfield, while voice-over suggests that Luli is doing what she must to survive the experience. It's this cowardice on the part of "Hick" -- its insistence on turning ugly matters into a Hallmark card -- that ultimately undoes it. I'm sure that, on the page, Portes' novel reads with poetry and grace and emotion; on-screen, we do not get poetry and grace and emotion. We get a 13-year-old being raped.

The supporting cast is either present for a scene or two -- Juliette Lewis as luli's drunkard mom, Alec Baldwin as the one decent human Luli gets to meet -- or entirely too present, as Eddie Redmayne's sneering sociopath (presumably a big, big fan of Martin Sheen in "Badlands") drags Luli across the west alternating sociopath's charm and brutal violence. Blake Lively plays a party girl who offers Luli hard-headed advice, fashion tips and cocaine; familiar-face character Ray MacKinnon tries to bring a preening patriarch to life, but is hemmed in by the script.

Portis and Martini adapted her novel, and perhaps a less sealed community of creation -- other writers working for director Martini or Martini and Portis writing for another director -- would have avoided some of the film's more grotesque missteps. As it is, Martini's affection for his own work is a demonstration of the fact that, all too often in filmmaking, the question is not "Who wrote this garbage?" but, rather, "Who read this garbage?" Making a film is a Herculean effort, requiring massed sacrifice and collective exertion. I cannot conceive of why any literate person of average intelligence would put that effort into "Hick"'s script.

With its voice-over and faux-Americana soundtrack of pedal steel and twanging banjo, with its phony accents and fake moments, with its ugly insistence on showing the worst of human behavior and intercutting it with road-movie montages and 'comedic' relief of Lively trying to move in her tight dress and heels, "Hick" stands alongside other film-festival laughingstocks and flops like "Houndog" and Joel Schumacher's "Twelve" as a classic example of how not to handle transgressive material involving teens and pre-teens -- and as an object lesson for a young filmmaker in what mis-steps and clumsy errors to avoid. "Hick" was intended to be a calling card for all parties involved to point at as evidence of their talent and bravery; instead, it's a black blot of shame for everyone who had a part in its making. [D-]

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29 Comments

  • Jayne | August 26, 2012 12:08 AMReply

    Chloe Moretz sucks. All she can do is appear in horror remakes which were superior. That fucking iconoclastic piece of hollywood shit that is the Carrie remake stinks to high heaven. Boycott this garbage.

  • CK Burke | May 25, 2012 7:43 PMReply

    And yet... it has 4 stars out of, 5 on iTunes, audience reviews.

    And yet... I have now watched it 3 times, twice with my girlfriend who also loves it. Like, was crying at the end, both times, because she thought it was so beautiful.

    I don't know why you critics have decided to go after this film so hardcore. It's like a gang bang or something.

    All I know is...this movie is actually rad.

    (AND I will never look at what another critic says about a movie again. I was this close to not renting the film on iTunes because of all you haters. Now I am super stoked I listened to my gut and rented it. You guys suck.)
    (Two words: Dude, retire.)

  • Check yoself | May 25, 2012 8:20 PM

    And yet here you are... trolling a film website and offering your pointless thoughts.

  • Who Cares. | December 13, 2011 9:36 PMReply

    Oh My God.

  • Peter | September 16, 2011 12:36 PMReply

    I've written about Andrea Portes' novel Hick twice before:

    http://www.patsymoore.com/bohemians/AF2_8.html


    http://finiteinformation.com/


    In both instances I was concerned about the work as literature which, as we all know, is a completely

    different thing from the work as cinema. In reading the production notes graciously sent to me by the filmmakers I can say that I

    can't wait to see the film. A novel is a singular enterprise, produced by one person who controls everything, while a film is almost the complete

    opposite, a collaboration of hundreds, so it's always a treat to see the ways the movie version of a book is faithful to the source and yet

    different.

    Which is why I have to crack a little smile at reading some of the early press the film has gotten. In the interest of

    full disclosure I must say that I haven't yet seen the picture but, knowing the story as I do, I'm reminded of the people who thoroughly booed

    Antonioni at Cannes over L'Avventura. I have a feeling that seeing the film, and writing about it, will be very rewarding experiences.


    -Peter Quinones
    www.oceansofsilence.com

  • Tiny | September 15, 2011 3:24 AMReply

    Finally, a good review:
    http://www.drinkswithtony.com/hick.html

  • Debbie | September 14, 2011 12:34 PMReply

    My sister was at the screening for this film at Torondo and she was one of the people who walked out. She said the film was terrible and while she likes Chloe Moretz, she thinks that this film will kill her career if it comes to the movie theaters.

  • Frank | September 14, 2011 10:36 AMReply

    To MR X

    I didn't notice people walking out on Hick. I've been to so many film festivals and that is very common for any film showing. People go in and out. They come late, leave early. I expect it. But this was a big theatre and A LOT of people, so I'm sure there was a lot of going in and out. That's not a sure sign of anything at Toronto or Sundance.

    This film Hick still haunts me. It's a damn good one. Not for the feint of heart though. It sucks you into a 13 year old girl's perspective and you wind up witnessing everything as if you are her. So it's darkly funny at times and just frighteningly emotional at others.

    Those leaves rustling with that voice going on in her head is a crazy scene that is unforgettable.

    this film will split audiences. No doubt. Probably critics too.

  • Jack | September 14, 2011 8:57 AMReply

    @ Chris

    "Your confusing your stupid assumption with reality. It’s not. I said dialogues and I was referring to the dialogues. How you got actions scenes out of that is beyond me."

    Like I said "You're confusing action sequences with dialogue."

    I think it's safe to say that Kick-Ass was a fun movie, but at the end it's just a highlight reel of stylish gore with a few select quips of cuteness. It ain't a Tarantino script. You give me a chunk of "solid" dialogue from it to prove your point. 90% of the lines in the movie are trite only to be elevated by the actors. The plot was solid the dialogue sucked.

  • Jack | September 14, 2011 8:48 AMReply

    @Jack:

    ‘You’re confusing action sequences with dialogue’

    Your confusing your stupid assumption with reality. It’s not. I said dialogues and I was referring to the dialogues. How you got actions scenes out of that is beyond me.
    "I’ve read the script and paid attention to the dialogue on more than one occasion). It’s good enough for this type of movie. Definitelly not bad. And your opinion is not a fact. Period."

    You sure you have? But you're right, it's not a fact, but it still sucks.

    "I WAS talking about the script. Learn the distinction before going out and labeling people, idiot."

    I'm rather sure you were wanking off on "Kick-Ass" in general even though the writer of this article specifically mentioned the 'shoddy' script, not so much the overall movie.

  • Jack | September 14, 2011 6:55 AMReply

    "According to who? Because most people (critics or not) certainly didn’t feel the same way.

    The dialogue was solid for this type of movie and some lines were really great. It wasn’t exactly campy either.

    You’re pretty much talking nonsense all across the board with this one."

    You're confusing action sequences with dialogue. If you read the script and actually pay attention to the dialogue (besides saying this such a unique film like OMG they said a funny line) it's weak as heck. Strip down to it's dialogue "Kick-Ass" is weak as heck. Period. Any writer would understand this.

    "You’re pretty much talking nonsense all across the board with this one."

    Actually, I'm not. I never said the film sucked - I said the script sucked. Learn the distinction fanboy.

  • Chris | September 14, 2011 6:35 AMReply

    @Jack:

    'You’re confusing action sequences with dialogue'

    Your confusing your stupid assumption with reality. It's not. I said dialogues and I was referring to the dialogues. How you got actions scenes out of that is beyond me.


    'If you read the script and actually pay attention to the dialogue (besides saying this such a unique film like OMG they said a funny line) it’s weak as heck. Strip down to it’s dialogue “Kick-Ass” is weak as heck. Period. Any writer would understand this.'

    I've read the script and paid attention to the dialogue on more than one occasion). It's good enough for this type of movie. Definitelly not bad. And your opinion is not a fact. Period


    'Actually, I’m not. I never said the film sucked - I said the script sucked. Learn the distinction fanboy.'

    I WAS talking about the script. Learn the distinction before going out and labeling people, idiot.




    @Christopher Bell
    'Those last 30-40 minutes were pretty awful, too.'

    That is the best part of the movie

  • Chris | September 14, 2011 5:46 AMReply

    "“Kick-Ass"s script sucked. Period. The dialogue was horrid save for a few scenes. Campy does not equal good no matter what the outcome of the project."

    The script sucked? Period?

    According to who? Because most people (critics or not) certainly didn't feel the same way.

    The dialogue was solid for this type of movie and some lines were really great. It wasn't exactly campy either.

    You're pretty much talking nonsense all across the board with this one.

  • Jack | September 14, 2011 5:36 AMReply

    @ Chris:

    "Kick-Ass"s script sucked. Period. The dialogue was horrid save for a few scenes. Campy does not equal good no matter what the outcome of the project.

  • Chris | September 14, 2011 5:32 AMReply

    "much like “Kick-Ass,” she is trapped in an idiotically foul and shoddy script"

    What a bunch of nonsense.

    That was a great movie with a solid script and one that catapulted her into stardom with her surprisingly strong performance. She received rave reviews all across the board. Do your homework better.

  • MrX | September 14, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    Thanks Cam,

    What an awful feeling those actors must've had when half their audience walks out on them!

  • Cam | September 14, 2011 5:06 AMReply

    MrX, one I saw said the theater was half empty when the movie ended.

    Honestly, this review was tame compared to a few I've read ripping Hick to shreds. I feel awful for Moretz and question her reaching her ability unless she makes changes around her which she won't.

  • MrX | September 14, 2011 4:54 AMReply

    To Lucy and Frank:

    Did you see people walk out of the movie because that's what I'm reading in some reviews?

  • Jason | September 14, 2011 4:47 AMReply

    YES!
    This movie was HORRID. I saw it because I enjoyed Lymelife". This was a HUGE step back. The audience at the premiere definitely didn't feel it either. I think this film has the worst buzz around the city right now. I'd have to agree.

  • M | September 14, 2011 4:14 AMReply

    Another bad review of this film. Damn I haven't read any that has been good so far. Oh well

  • Lucy | September 14, 2011 4:08 AMReply

    Worst movie of the year? Get grip. This was very well made and as a woman I can say with authority that Moretz was not used as a sexual object. not at all. It's just goes from finny and sweet to very tense and dark. In fact there wasn't anything sexual about it at all. It was all very emotional. And an authentic portrait of a 13 year old girl, abandoned, and fnding her sexuality but scared to use it.

  • Lucy | September 14, 2011 4:02 AMReply

    What a bad review. This film rocked. One of the most interesting films of the year. Hick is a story of youthful hope and strength. Couldn't be more wrong. Maybe not for everyone, and especially frustrated filmmakers, but definitely for those who love original filmmakers taking risks with tough stories.

  • Cam | September 14, 2011 3:33 AMReply

    You're in the minority, Frank. Most reviewers are saying it's hot garbage and that Chloe Moretz was basically used as an object to leer at.

  • Mike | September 14, 2011 3:09 AMReply

    Whoa, based on reviews, this could be a contender for worst of the year.

  • Frank | September 14, 2011 2:58 AMReply

    R u a frustrated filmmaker? Seems so. I saw the film and it was weird but passionate, creepy, funny and emotional.

    I'd rather see leaves rustling and voice over than houndog graphic rape any day. This was at least clever and very well acted.

  • Edward Davis | September 14, 2011 2:52 AMReply

    We all like Chloe Moretz, she's talented as fuck. But the way some of you desperately hold onto the notion that this film is good despite a cavalcade of reviews that say its shit is well... pathetic.

  • Christopher Bell | September 14, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    Bill's on the money with the "Kick-Ass" assessment. It was a lot of fun at first, and an intriguingly odd tone, but then just became like the rest of'em. Those last 30-40 minutes were pretty awful, too.

    As far as the writing being "universally praised," the guy who wrote that comic is more or less a joke who spends most of his time talking his shit up and making "what if" premises.

  • Cam | September 14, 2011 2:25 AMReply

    Debbie, do you know at what point of the film your sister walked out and why she felt that way about Moretz? If she walked out early enough, she probably didn't even see the more seedy stuff.

  • Bill | September 14, 2011 1:58 AMReply

    You can't argue with taste.

    Personally, I thought Kick-ass was average. It had a very well done first 45 minutes or so but once it stopped being about "A Normal Kid playing superhero" & became "Another Goddamn Superhero movie" the holes started to show. I didn't find Chloe Moretz that compelling in the film either. She was a 10 year old girl who had an excellent stunt double & said things like "fuck" & " you're a cunt". I was a substitute teacher for a year & trust me, go on any school ground in the US & you can hear 10 year olds calling each other " a fucking cunt". So there was zero shock value as far as I was concerned.

    I found her performance in LET ME IN to be the real standout in 2010.

    Anywho, Hick sounds terrible. There's been this weird sexualization of Chloe Moretz (Kickass did have an actor in his 20s saying "I love her") & this sounds like 90 minutes of looking at her in daisy dukes. Shudder.

    It's funny that the most innocent movie she's going to be in this year is a goddamned Scorsese film!

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