The Principles: Deborah Kampmeier (Director). Dakota Fanning, David Morse, Robin Wright Penn, Piper Laurie.
The Premise: A young, abused girl uses the music of Elvis Presley to hide (and subsequently free herself) from her personal tragedies.
Is It Good: Fuck no. It’s full of overblown Southern Gothic visuals, the direction is flat and the dialogue is about as stiff as The King in his present condition. There is some nice composition in the photography and you can get a sense of the sparse, rustic charm of the rural South (though the specific setting is unknown, I’d guess they were aiming for Georgia), but the fact of the matter is it’s all been done before. It’s pretty, and it’s still pretty through Kampmeier’s lens, but it’s not original. The biggest problem here is that there’s no organization and the film hasn’t the faintest clue how to properly express what it has on its mind. I’ll give it credit – it’s thinking about things, but again, it all gets lost in translation. The only bright spot here is Dakota Fanning. I’m a pretty big fan of hers (War of the Worlds excluded) and this performance was a big step for her growth as an actress. The big piece of course was the rape scene and it broke my heart to see it, honestly. She sold it almost too well. But because of everything that came before and after it, it winds up becoming gratuitous and manipulative.
Frankly, just go watch Black Snake Moan. Craig Brewer did EVERYTHING that Kampmeier tried to do, and he did it first.
Is It Worth A Look: No. Not even for die-hard Elvis fans, because the film actually seems to want to hold him in contempt. If it‘s been sitting in your Instant Queue (as it had been mine) you don‘t have to feel guilty for just deleting it.
Random Anecdotes: Unless I’ve forgotten something, the only two roles I’ve seen Piper Laurie play are religious whack jobs. David Morse’s hair should have a credit all its own. Not really a spoiler – but Morse’s character gets struck by lightning while he’s riding a tractor, and the resulting ejection from the seat should win the Oscar for Best Performance By a Mannequin on a String (For your consideration!). I wanna see a lenticular poster made from the one-sheets of this and the Funny Games remake.
Cinematic Soulmates: Tideland. Footloose. The King and I.
Don’t ever catch a rabbit on our MESSAGE BOARDS!
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