There arent many characters you could call admirable in Hick, the new film from Derick Martini starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Lilu, a young teen who finds nothing but misfortune when she ditches her family and her Nebraska home for the bright lights of Las Vegas. Thats sort of the point, though: The world is a dark, challenging place.
But Lilus home life is no picnic, either. Her father, an irritating drunk played by Anson Mount, has one piece of advice for her thats both wonderful and almost impossible for her to maintain. Just stay sweet, he tells her. Its actually a very nice moment in a film thats in short supply of nice moments. Can Lilu stay sweet, considering what shes about to go through? The movie is so jumbled, coincidental and ultimately distasteful that, by the end, you might not care.
Thats too bad, because Martinis last film, Lymelife, was a nice ensemble piece. And theres no shortage of people who love the novel, written by Andrea Portes, from which this new one was adapted; Portes also wrote the screenplay. But Hick is a mess, a southern-fried gumbo of bad accents, creepy cowboys and characters who are hard to feel sorry for. Lilu is kind of mean; still, you dont want to see any 13-year-old go through the nasty stuff she has to deal with.
Neither Lilus father nor her mother (a ditzy Juliette Lewis) are particularly attentive to her, so after her 13th birthday, which is held in a bar where both of her parents get hammered and an unidentifiable relative gives her a Smith & Wesson .45 as a gift, Lilu packs her Daisy Dukes and her collection of halter tops and hits the road, hoping to find a sugar daddy or least someone wholl pay attention to her. Thing is, shes got no car, so shes thumbing it, and the first person to pull up and offer her a ride is Eddie Kreezer (Eddie Redmayne), a guy weird enough to start crushing on a barely pubescent girl.
Things dont quite work out between them, however, and soon Lilu finds herself under the auspices of Glenda (Blake Lively), a small-time grifter who has her own history with Eddie. Hes not out of the picture, of course, because Eddies the sociopathic wolf to Lilus Little Red Riding Hood, the messed-up Robert De Niro to her Jodie Foster. Yeah, its that kind of movie, but instead of being the kind of creepy that makes you think, its the kind of creepy that makes you want to turn away.Moretz is a real talent, and Redmayne, whose face is probably unfamiliar to most Americans, is the real deal, a Brit whos turned out a number of interesting roles in recent years. They both do good work here, and though Moretz is coming into her own as an actress more and more, its not enough to pull this off.
Alec Baldwin and Rory Culkin, who both had parts in Lymelife, make appearances, but each character feels like its been inserted into a rambling story simply because the actor was willing to put in a day or two as a favor. Its certainly possible that the characters are more important in the book, which Ive not read, but here they just feel out of place.
Theres an interesting juxtaposition of seeing Juliette Lewis as Lilus mother, since she made films like Cape Fear, Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers when she wasnt much older than Moretz. But all of those films are filled with menace and intensity, which Hick doesnt have. Instead, the narrative winds around like the dismal back roads on which the movie often takes place, leading to its icky, inevitable conclusion and an epilogue thats supposed to leave you with a sense of optimism but will probably just leave you cold.
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