TIFF 2011: HICK is a Bumpy and Uncomfortable Ride
I was in awe when I first walked into Toronto's historic Winter Garden theater for the premiere of Derick Martini's off beat road tripper Hick. Chilled a few extra degrees, the Winter Garden's ceilings are covered in (fake) hanging plants that coupled with the ornate stage design gives the room a truly magical feeling. Unfortunately the film on display couldn't quite live up to the decor.
Hick stars Chloe Moretz as Luli who we meet celebrating her thirteenth birthday at a bar with her drunken mom (Juliette Lewis) and all her mom's wino friends. Soon after the celebration ends, Luli heads out on her own, bound from her Nebraska home for Las Vegas. Along the way she catches a ride with the charming yet quick to temper Eddie (Eddie Redmayne). Then once expelled from his pickup, she falls in with her all grown up doppelganger Glenda (Blake Lively). These two take turns manipulating Luli as they see fit and from there we just kind of meander until the eventual dissatisfying conclusion.
Moretz seems to have a knack for choosing very uncomfortable roles. I was completely turned off of Kick-Ass by her murderous little Mindy. Here she is turned into a pedophilic sex symbol, all dolled up and wearing very little. She snorts coke, brandishes a gun, and though it isn't shown, there is an implied rape scene towards the end. While all of this could make for some sort of somber morality tale, the film is instead more darkly comedic. This sends a very strange message about the acceptability of all of these events for some sort of possible message that fails to connect.
There are a few bright spots in the film - most notably the performances by Lively and Redmayne who are both far more interesting characters than little Luli - though they remain woefully undeveloped. There is also a great cameo by Ray McKinnon, best known as the preacher from Deadwood.
Based on the novel of the same name by Andrea Portes, this is one of those stories that is pretty easy to imagine reading much more naturally on the page. On the big screen the black comedy comes across as just too uncomfortable. Good performances simply aren't enough to save this creepfest that promises to be a very tough sell to mainstream audiences.