By: Addison Wylie
Derick Martini’s Hick reminded me of Deborah Kampmeier’s 2007 indie film Hounddog. Both with it’s Southern setting and the state’s troubled habitants but also because both films took innocent, young actresses and positioned them in harsh adult themes.
Hounddog was all the hubbub because of a certain scene involving Dakota Fanning’s Lewellen being sexually assaulted. It easily made people aware of the film because we could never picture the delightful actress from I am Sam in such a brutal role.
If it weren’t for the role of Hit-Girl in 2010’s Kick Ass, Hick may have been that film for actress Chloë Grace Moretz.
Hounddog failed because of its slathering of melodrama and the bogus emotion behind it. Is Hick a better film than Hounddog? Yes, but not by much because of those same faults. It isn’t worthy of a recommendation either.
Moretz plays Luli McMullen. Growing up in a small Southern town with unkempt parents, Luli longs for caring company. Not necessarily a boyfriend or a new family, but just someone who has their head on straight.
Luli hits the road soon after her 13th birthday in search of a getaway and to find those desirable conversationalists. On her trip, she meets an array of different characters including a mysterious con-woman named Glenda (played by Blake Lively) and a cowboy with a limp and a short temper named Eddie (played by Eddie Redmayne).
The film has been adapted from Andrea Portes’ novel of the same name, to which she also wrote the film’s screenplay. Based on that knowledge we can expect what we’re seeing on screen is most likely faithful to the source material. However, I would love to know if the characters Luli meets in the book have been written as overly dramatic and fickle as the characters in Martini’s film.
Portes wants to illustrate how not everyone seems to be who they are at first. A kind gesture may not always reflect that particular person’s personality.
A perfect example would be when Luli first meets Eddie. The two start to warm up to one another but when Luli calls Eddie a “gimp”, Eddie becomes very stern.
Even if Redmayne takes things a little too serious during these moments, it’s understandable as to why a character with a limp would react this way.
However, the audience is tricked. There are more scenes where Eddie is interested in what Luli has to say and wants to commit to a friendship. But, before you can say “y’all”, Eddie is lashing out and putting Luli in dangerous situations to save his hide.
The problem doesn’t lay with Portes wanting to shine a light on flawed personalities but with how Portes has written this character in an inconsistent way and how Martini has directed Redmayne. An audience likes to be pulled back and forth leaving it up to us to make our own decisions, but the struggle to either make Eddie a redeeming character or a reprehensible one goes on for far too long resulting in a botched arc to his character.
Portes’ script loves to show glimmers of hope only to yank the carpet from underneath the audience and throw them back into a frustrating world of misconduct. Rory Culkin appears in a throwaway role as a genuine nerdy guy who likes to play a silly and random card game. We see Moretz with a sweet smile plastered on her face when she plays cards with him. It’s a lovely change of pace since we’ve seen Luli be tugged around by annoying characters.
However, that ruse is up and Eddie enters the scene to remove Luli away from Culkin and we never see Culkin again.
The performances, other than Moretz trying to keep this film afloat, are nothing to write home about. Each actor feels the need to layer on a thick Southern accent, making them seem like they’re making fun of the speech rather than actually becoming a Southerner.
The one odd performance that I fall directly in the middle of is Lively’s portrayal of Glenda. Again, it’s another aggravatingly flawed character where the audience can never decide on whether we’re on board with her antics or not.
But, Lively is able to become that character and prove she has acting chops and not just a pretty face. The character she’s portraying is an unpleasant on, but with it she promises audiences that she has “the goods” , and, hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of this serious side of Lively in future projects.
I would’ve loved to root for a companion that could follow alongside Luli but Hick never offers this. Portes and Martini are more interested in tricking the audience ten too many times and we can’t help but feel fed up after a while.
The characters may not be definable but after watching Hick, I was able to define two things about the film:
The first being that Mortez has that power to support her own performance and could most certainly hold her own next to esteemed actors (Juliette Lewis and Alec Baldwin appear briefly and play flaky roles).
The second point being that I really, really, really didn’t like Hick.