Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dakota Territory

"So, does anyone know what this movie is about?"

That was the clever pre-screening comment of Philadelphia City Paper critic Sam Adams regarding Hounddog, which was as widely covered as any film I can remember in my decade attending Sundance. Sean Hannity, church groups, et. al. weighed in on the terrible-ness of a movie in which a 12-year-old -- played by Dakota Fanning -- is raped on screen.

I have my own feelings about whether or not such content should ever appear in a movie, and your mileage may vary. Should this ever make its way to wide theatrical release, you should trust your own judgment regarding whether you want to see such a scene in any context, or of any duration. You should also trust your own judgment regarding whether you want to see a movie that is, basically, ridiculous.

Not so much ridiculous in the "nothing anybody does makes any sense" sense; that's Adrift in Manhattan. Just ridiculous in the "I don't think I'm supposed to be laughing at this, yet I am" sense. It's sort of about trying to break out of feeling attached to those who abuse you, and about the blues as a manifestation of that re-claiming of personhood. Which is interesting, in theory -- until someone is literally struck by lightning, and snakes start metaphorically and literally slithering through every scene, and characters start making dark philosophical pronouncements. Fanning does a lot with her role, because she's that talented. Writer/director Deborah Kempmeier, however, leads her astray. If you're going to put a kid in front of the firing squad of public opinion, it has to be for something better than this. (Scott Renshaw)

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