‘Hick’ is a strange, occasionally affecting mess

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Hick

Directed by Derick Martini

Written by Andrea Portes

USA, 2011

There ought to be a place for films in which young children are graphically exposed to the evils of the world. The problem is that if those films are mishandled in the least, the average audience member will feel like a child pornographer just by paying money to watch them. Derick Martini doesn’t mishandle every scene in Hick, but he blows enough of them to make any audience uncomfortable and a little bit dirty.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl from Kick-Ass) plays Luli, a 13-year-old Nebraska girl caught between a pair of drunken, battling parents who are making the 1980s miserable for her. So she runs away, hitchhiking up Interstate 80 with a plan to go to Las Vegas. But her encounters with the crippled cowboy Eddie (Eddie Redmayne) and conwoman Glenda (Blake Lively) quickly send her on a different path.

Glenda has Luli snorting cocaine before they’ve even been on screen ten minutes together, which is the first hint that things are going to turn even uglier later on. Give Lively credit for throwing herself into the role, looking skankier and more unrecognizable than in The Town and delivering the wistful look that turns lines like…

Here, try this [Luli’s first hit of cocaine]. Better you find out about it this way, instead of some man giving it to you and calling it love.

…into dramatic dynamite. However her accent is atrocious, as are most of the accents in the movie; apparently Nebraska is full of Texans.

Moretz is far and away the best part of the film. Rather like Natalie Portman in The Professional, she has a strange combination of innocence and cynicism, aware of her own sexuality but completely unprepared to wield it in the adult world. When she asks for a second hit of cocaine, and her face shows how easily she could enter a long, painful decade of becoming Glenda, it’s a truly haunting moment.

As Hick gets darker and darker in its second act, Moretz is up to the acting challenge, but Martini fails her. Luli is a damaged-enough character that it’s possible to see Glenda as a nightmarish mother figure and Eddie as a twisted love interest. However, self-esteem that low should be an epic thing, the most important part of this girl’s entire life, and Martini’s direction doesn’t sell it. The cocaine scene mentioned above is followed by a convenience store robbery played as broad slapstick comedy, badly mangling the movie’s tone, and that is not the first time Hick whips between serious and silly.

It’s possible that the source novel from Andrea Portes (who also wrote the screenplay) is simply unfilmable. Perhaps only an omniscient narrator can take an audience deep enough inside Luli’s head that this strange tone makes sense. Give Martini credit for trying, and for drawing a performance so good out of Moretz that he has a chance to succeed. In the end, however, Hick is merely a grotesque curiosity, a queasy attempt at art.

Mark Young

7 Comments
  1. CKBurke says

    And yet… it has 4 stars out of, 5 on iTunes, audience reviews.

    And yet… I have now watched it 3 times, twice with my girlfriend who also loves it. Like, was crying at the end, both times, because she thought it was so beautiful.

    I don’t know why you critics have decided to go after this film so hardcore. It’s like a gang bang or something.

    All I know is…this movie is actually rad.

    (AND I will never look at what another critic says about a movie again. I was this close to not renting the film on iTunes because of all you haters. Now I am super stoked I listened to my gut and rented it. You guys suck.)
    (Two words: Dude, retire.)

  2. jesse says

    You guys are crazy. I just watched the movie last night. It’s RAD. Don’t get why there’s so much hating on this movie. Really don’t.

  3. Jennifer says

    Dear “Jack Rabbit”,
    You are an idiot. That book is taught in our contemporary lit class in my high school and it is unanimously loved by even the most apathetic of students.

    Also, if you look at the reader reviews on Amazon, that book is beloved and critically lauded.

    You show either:

    1) Your ignorance
    2) A personal issue with the author. What’s the matter? Did she break your heart?

  4. Simon Edington says

    Yes the subject matter in Hick may be uncomfortable to watch, but anyone who comes from a broken home will relate to this movie. It’s beautifully shot, well acted, and frankly I’m not sure why there are so many scathing reviews about it. Chloe and eddie nail their characters, and the rest support well.
    But I guess if you don’t like a dose of reality in your movie going experience, go see Mary Poppins.

  5. Jack Rabbit says

    Mark,

    Hick the novel should not have been made into a movie. The reason why it works even marginally in the novel is because of Luli’s commentary. The book was annoying. And the movie is just ok. Barely. The reason being is it’s not too long. It has good actors playing the roles from the book. And it’s nice to look at. But I really saw no reason this should ever be made into a movie. It’s simply not a compelling enough story. Maybe the author and her filmmaking friends were just indulging themselves.

  6. mm_young says

    KK: I actually thought that was a good line, one of the few in the movie. Apologies for misquoting it.

    I should also note that I have not read Portes’ novel, so I was only speculating about if it was not filmable. I don’t want to imply anything about the book, positive or negative, in this review.

  7. TJ Weaver says

    Nice review, Mark. Chloe Moretz is a great actress. Can’t wait to see what else she takes on. It’s a shame Martini didn’t use her talents to the fullest. Is ‘Hick’ on Dvd yet or is it a limited release?

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