Monday, August 10, 2009

An Occasional Review

From my few reviews, you know that I’m not a great critic of art. I know what I like and dislike; but, have difficulty telling you why.

I’ve often said that art occurs when the artist takes you somewhere they want you to go. By that definition, Hounddog, from 2007, starring Dakota Fanning and written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier, is art. The trouble I have with the trip I took is that I didn’t want to go and I have a troubling sense that the artist shouldn’t have taken Fanning on the trip.

Fanning plays a girl, eleven or twelve, in the deep south in the Fifties. She lives with her dysfunctional father and grandmother (David Morse and Piper Laurie). She’s pretty much on her own with the false friendship of a neighbor boy and true but unavailing concern from a black neighbor. She’s mistreated, or better put, ignored by her father and grandmother as she goes through the process of ending childhood. She ends it with a bang – being raped by an older neighborhood boy.

Her redemption, if it can be called that, is to leave them to live with her barely functional aunt - from a terrible life to a life without much prospect.

But none of this is my problem.

I know people live this way, going from desperation to marginality being a success. And these are stories that should be told. But, I made the mistake of watching the “making of” piece on the DVD. Kampmeier is proud and defensive about her raw portrayal of young sexuality and its terrible consequences for the Fanning character. I know I haven’t adequately described the character or the performance. Think Jodie Foster at the same age, but even more sensual, no that’s not the right word. Fanning’s character is an innocent. Kampmeier plays with the innocent with an adult’s prurient interest.

Yes, that’s what the adults around her in the movie were doing, and yes, people do those things. People love it or hate the movie Kampmeier said. I’m in neither camp; but, I have a problem involving a young actress in the process. Fanning was 13 in 2007 when the movie was released. I’ll assume she was a year or so younger during the filming.

I’d have less trouble with this movie were it a novel, no children harmed in the process.


molly gras said...

I really appreciate your kind and gentle sensibilities regarding having such ugly and harsh realities being reconstituted and put out there as "entertainment" -- I say "blech" and no thank you.

But I do say "thank you" to you for your review (and I'll be sure to avoid this one!)

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

Dave -- Your review reminds me of my review of the movie Tideland, directed by Terry Gilliam. He opens that movie with a similar statement, defending it. Although Tideland was not solely about sexuality, there was that element to it.

Very hard to watch.

I'm with Molly Gras on this one -- I think I'll pass.

Dr Jenn said...

I never knew the name of the movie but she did the part @ ten years old not to far from her 11th birthday. It was in the news on ET. One of the rare occasions that I got to watch TV. Anyway, the "scene" does not look the way it was filmed. Supposed that there was filming on a green screen (is that what they are called) and the actors were filmed separate. FROM what I remember. Some form of Child Welfare, an advocate, and a parent or guardian were there. She also had some sort of psychologist involvement before during and after (to assure there was no mental damage at any time. Great means were taken to ensure her welfare.

Having said that, art or not, I think it does breech a line of safety for kids in general. I am sure there is a (child)sex offender out there watching this flick and getting off. Or there is someone out there with a tendency to become an offender that might cross the line here. I am sure in argument you could say that this is a way to inform people how violent and horrific this is and then there are other arguments I won't cross here.

Great post.

Dave said...

For an opposing view, try this:

A bit more about the movie from the article above. I hate to say it but, my view of the movie was shared by the Christian right and the dreaded Sean Hannity.

From some more surfing:

apparently the movie tanked in theaters and moved on to DVD.

Fanning at all of almost 13 told the media she had no problems with the process or her role.

I hope so.

Debo Blue said...

Like Pos and Molly G., I'll pass on this too.

I think this is another reason Hollywood changes children into believing everything is fake and rehearsed and can be done in another 'take'.

Then when it's all over society has to deal with the exploited, dazed bunch of mess.

Rob said...

I think I'll pass on this movie too.

Part of what's most disturbing is how our society seems to have so little concern over the sexualization of little girls. Just look at some of the offensive crap that's marketed squarely at pre-teen and tween girls... Can we talk about Bratz dolls? Why not just call 'em Hookerz? Miley Cyrus not only doesn't get penalized for posing seductively and nearly naked on an adult magazine, but Disney rewards her by ramping up on the Hanna Montana merchandising just in time for a banner Christmas. Even Dora the Explorer, which is clearly for the sub-10 demographic, is getting a somewhat trampy Bratz-esqe makeover.

I've seen little girls in the department store wearing tight pants that have "Princess" stenciled across the seat. What mother in her right mind would think that having her daughter wear clothing with lettering across the butt is a good idea?

Good Lord, I'm thankful that I'm the Dad of a little boy...