It has been said that when it comes to cinema, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Controversy can spread word-of-mouth and natural curiosity faster than most ad campaigns, propelling a film that may have flown under most people's radar to surprise success and welcome notoriety. This isn't always the case however, as Deborah Kampmeier's Hounddog proves. Following a screening at the Sundance Film Festival, the film faced protests for a scene in which Dakota Fanning's character is raped (she was 12 at the time of filming). Hounddog went onto to be a critical and box-office failure, and has since faded into obscurity. In fact, the gut- wrenching power of the hard-to-watch rape scene and the performance of Fanning are the only good things to be said about this slow- moving and cliché-ridden drama.
It's the late 1950's. Lewellen (Fanning) is a precocious young girl living in rural Alabama with her deadbeat dad (David Morse), and next door to her religious disciplinarian grandmother (Piper Laurie). She spends most of her spare time performing awful renditions of her favourite Elvis Presley songs, or down at the local watering hole with her friend Buddy (Cody Hanford). The two share the odd kiss and inspect each other's private parts with fascination. We're told that Daddy is abusive, and clearly gets violent with his new girlfriend (listed as 'Stranger Lady' in the credits and played by Robin Wright). However, he is struck by lightning one night and reduced to a simpleton, becoming reliant on his tom-boy daughter and terrified she will abandon him. Lewellen's main concern is nabbing tickets for Elvis's visit to town, until a horrific attack turns her world upside down.
In an attempt to capture Lewellen's poverty and the general barrenness of the Deep South setting, Kampmeier has pasted together images of rusty, decrepit vehicles parked on overgrown lawns and damp, sweaty interiors, combined with the constant chirping of crickets. It's beautifully filmed, but this kind of imagery has been used countless times before. It often feels like a foreigner's idea of Alabama, all string vests, small-town ignorance and God-fearing. You wait for the story to kick into gear, but it never does. Instead, the film seems to revel in putting Lewellen through one horrible experience after another, with seemingly no point. She seeks guidance from local snake-catcher Charles (Afemo Omilami), who teaches the girl about the blues which inspired Elvis, and the two share a few scenes in which he comes across as the clichéd wise black man. Hounddog is terrible on almost every level, but thank God for Fanning, who even outshines seasoned veterans like Morse and Wright.
Action / Drama / Music
Action / Drama / Music
A drama set in the American South, where a precocious, troubled girl finds a safe haven in the music and movement of Elvis Presley.
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February 27, 2015 at 05:17 PM