GOING by the blistering reviews Hick received on its limited cinematic release last year, you’d be forgiven for thinking the best thing about Derick Martini’s film now being available on DVD was that you’ve got a shiny new barbecue drinks coaster — one that sparkles rainbow colours when the sun hits it.
And in that you’d be very, very mistaken. I don’t care that some of the world’s most prominent reviewers saved their most sneering tones for this tale that’s half whimsy, half brutal reality and starring the wonderful Chloe Moretz ( Kick-Ass, 30 Rock) and Blake Lively ( The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). It’s tough to watch — you definitely wouldn’t have the nextdoor neighbours in for it unless you’ve got a particularly good relationship going there. (And if this is the kind of stuff over which you’re likely to bond with the Joneses, maybe you’ve got some lifestyle issues I really don’t want to know about.)
But Hick is worth the effort — and it does have some genuinely witty writing. That’s partly because the screenplay was knocked together by Andrea Portes, based on her novel of the same name. I haven’t read the book but I gather the film hews fairly closely to the original text and, given the terrific reception that has received since it was published about five years ago, it’s hard to see where Hick the movie falls down in other reviewers’ eyes.
Basic plot, minus spoilers: 13-year-old Luli knows she has to get out of the dead-end future that life with her alcoholic parents in rural Nebraska looks like providing. One of the film’s earliest set-ups — Luli’s 13th birthday party at a local bar — pretty much tells it all. Mum and Dad are smashed, uncle gives her a Smith & Wesson .45 for a gift, bartender has to provide a ride home at the end of the night to stop her legless father from trying to drive. Things are never going to look up unless this teen can start doing things for herself.
A brief diversion involving the gun, a mirror and Clint Eastwood’s famous ‘‘Make my day’’ lines, and a quick bit of soul-searching later, Luli decides to set out to see what she can make of her life. Just to make sure the point of it all is underscored, there’s a throughline touching back to cinema classic The Wizard of Oz. One of two key offsiders she meets on her journey, played by the captivating Lively, is even called Glenda. (The Good Witch was Glinda — get it?) Glenda is grifter, hooker and mother figure all rolled into one, taking her young hitch-hiking charge right under her cocaine-powdered wing.
This, of course, is the whimsical part, and it serves to reinforce the brutality that makes up the rest of Hick — rape, murder, mindless violence, kidnapping; yet, through it all, there’s Luli’s apparent refusal to give up.
The other key character is hillbilly gimp psychopath Eddie (Eddie Redmayne), the source of much of Luli’s pain and a truly loathsome and pitiable figure.
I accept this all won’t work for everyone, but if you’ve got a thing for films that take the (yellow brick) road less travelled, it’s worth a crack.
(MA15+) Hopscotch (102min, $39.95)
(MA15+) Transmission (100min, $34.95)
(M) Roadshow (151min, $39.95)
(PG) Roadshow (120min, $39.95)