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Hick Movie Reviews


Hick: A Ground-Breaking Film About a Teen Girl as You've Never Seen Her

Erica Abeel - Author, 'Conscience Point'


Hick, the acclaimed novel by Andrea Portes, features one of the freshest, catchiest voices in recent fiction. The voice belongs to Luli, the 13-year-old daughter of a pair of lushes in Nowhere Nebraska, and it's funny, trashy, snarky, outrageous -- a great yawp from the heartland that rings heart-breakingly true. Now Hick is about to hit the big screen, and since an early sighting at the Toronto film fest last year, it's been generating controversy, in part because this story of an underage girl includes violence, implied rape, drugs, even murder.

A dark variation on the road movie, Hick (directed by Derick Martini of Lymelife) opens on the 13th birthday of Luli (up-and-coming Chloë Moretz) in her parents' bar surrounded by other pickled losers. Among Luli's gifts is a .45 Smith & Wesson. After mom (trash queen Juliette Lewis) runs off with a sugar daddy and her father disappears as well, Luli -- flat-out abandoned -- decides to hit the road for Las Vegas to find a sugar daddy of her own. On the road she tangles with a gimpy and volatile cowboy (sexy Eddie Redmayne, with lips almost as come-hither as Moretz's), and then falls in with Glenda (Blake Lively), a grifter and coke-snorting guide to America's highways and byways -- who could also be read as a grown-up version of Luli. Though this coming-of-ager culminates in gunfire and mayhem, Luli emerges, improbably but triumphantly, as a resilient survivor and figure of hope.

In an effort to understand the fracas over this candid, if provocative odyssey of an underage girl, I spoke with Hick's author, Andrea Portes, who also wrote the screenplay.

Erica Abeel: You mention a "witch hunt" triggered by Hick. One reviewer observed, "I can see making a coming of age story with a boy, but with a girl it's just creepy." So is the put-down about the protagonist's gender?

Andrea Portes: That comment made my blood boil. It makes you want to shout, 'Okay... so do we just not tell coming-of-age stories about girls, then?' Or do we just tell stories with rainbows and unicorns that have nothing to do with anything?

I think part of it is that most films we see are written by men... so we get a lot of similar female characters: The girlfriend, the wife, the virgin, the whore, the tragic but beautiful basket case, the innocent yet wise teenager, the quirky friend, the femme fatale. But when you have a female writer, writing a female character... things just come out a little differently. (Example: Erin Cressida Wilson's Secretary.) And then, when you have a female writer writing a teenage girl, with all her flaws, beauty, innocence, curiosity, etc... it makes people, especially men, REALLY uncomfortable.

I mean, the thing with Luli is... she sees this big wide world, through movies and magazines, with impossibly beautiful women having the time of their lives, and yet she's stuck in this horrible place. So understandably, she wants to go out there and take a big bite out of this glitzy, glamorous world she thinks exists. And, of course, it doesn't exist. That is a world being spoon-fed to all of us to sell more stuff. But it's an illusion.

The other issue, I think, is that there's a way you're SUPPOSED to tell a story with violence, possible molestation, etc. The way everyone usually does it, and the way it's considered socially acceptable, is to do a kind of Lifetime movie-of-the-week, black-and-white story where all men are evil and all girls are prefect. But, guess what? That's simplistic. And we've all seen that story... a billion times.

I was more interested in telling a story that was like life... at times weird, at times funny, at times horrible, at times absurd, at times violent, at times moving, at times beautiful. That makes sense to me, maybe because that's the way I've experienced the world. I know the film is shocking. But it's not shocking just to be shocking. I'm holding up a mirror up to nature. I know a LOT of girls who had these type of strange entanglements during their teenage years.

So many women came up to me, during my book tour, and said: "You know what, something like this happened to me and I never told a SOUL." Many of them didn't feel they should tell anyone, because everything was in kind of a grey area. It was, what they at the time, considered a "relationship". It was only years later when they realized, "Oh my Lord, that was wrong! That person took advantage of me. No, a 28 year old is not your 'boyfriend' when you are 13!"

So, yes, it's a shocking film. But, you know what... it ain't nothing compared to what's really out there. Trust me.

EA: In the novel you give Luli, as the narrator, a wonderfully distinctive voice -- raw and LOL funny. How in your screen version did you capture that?

AP: Luli's dialogue is in many places word for word, from the novel. Same goes for Eddie and Glenda.

EA: Sorry to ask, but to what degree is the story autobiographical?

AP: I'd say around 60 percent. But that 60 percent should probably be kept a mystery. I mean... it's not like I ever shot anybody. (Wink.)

EA: What do you think of the casting? Chloë Moretz looks almost ridiculously like the character in the novel as you describe her, even down to the big, plummy mouth. As Luli she's a lot hotter than as the vampire girl in Let Me In. And what about Blake Lively and Eddie Redmayne, who's become quite the heartthrob?

AP: Let's face it. Chloë Moretz existing right now is really lucky for the film. I can't imagine anyone else in that role. Also, Chloe herself has a lot of Luli's qualities... smart, funny, precocious, sharp, intellectually curious, sometimes just a kid goofing around, two seconds later beyond her years. She's really kind of a little miracle.

I am giddy for people to see Eddie Redmayne as Eddie Kreezer. He's just riveting. It's beyond anything I had ever dreamed of. It's nice, too, because off camera he's just a really kind, smart, self-deprecating, English gent. He's top shelf. Blake Lively came to the set with the novel book-marked and dog-eared and she wanted to add more dialogue from the book. So, of course, I was thrilled. (Any novelist would be.) She was really smart about the role. Glenda is not an easy role to play and she nailed it.

EA: Did you bond with Chloë over the film?

AP: I did get along well with Chloë and her family. They're really good people. It's funny, too, because in a lot of these blogs people are expressing concern over her growing up too fast. And I'm thinking... No, no, if anything Chloë is much more insulated and protected than most girls her age. Her mom, Teri, and her brother, Trevor, who is also her acting couch, make sure she's got an amazing, secure foundation. And that she goes to bed early. It's really sweet, actually.

EA: Aside from the screenplay, did you have any other role in the film?

AP: Yes, Derick brought me in early, during pre-production, and kept me there the whole time. He was insistent I be there. It was an incredible process and I was lucky to have been put in that position. Most writers aren't even allowed on the set, let alone allowed to sit next to the director at the monitor. It was beyond cool.

EA: Back to the "discomfort factor" inspired by Hick. Luli seems very self-assured for her age. But will it be hard for viewers to root for her when she becomes entangled with the psycho cowboy who then molests and ties her up? And how is the issue of the murder resolved in the film?

AP: You know, before anyone was cast there was a common question: "Why does Luli keep getting in that truck with Eddie?" And my answer was, "Look, if you cast the right Eddie, you'll understand." And that's exactly what happens with Eddie Redmayne. You KNOW you shouldn't. You KNOW you're probably going to regret it... but you just can't help yourself. He's charming, and crazy, and vulnerable, and funny, and psychotic, and goofy. And, yes, ultimately, he's broken. But you still fall in love with him.

As for the murder... wait, you'll have to see it! Coming soon to a theater near you!


DVD Letterbox: Hick

Chloe Moretz stars in Hick, which is half whimsy, half brutal reality. 


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 next-door 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.

- Stephen Fitzpatrick


Hick and the Modern Western


“Do ya feel lucky, do ya?” These iconic film lines come from a most unlikely source in Hick- a thirteen year-old girl playing with her brand-new Smith & Wesson in front of her bedroom mirror. From the beginning its clear Luli wants to become someone else, perhaps Clint Eastwood.

Luli comes from the kind of Nebraskatown where mothers give pistols to their daughters for their thirteenth birthday. It’s exactly the kind of town that westerns used to draw their lore from.

Hick, which runs till Thursday at 7 and 9 PM, is an interesting mix of two classic, but now rare, genres- the bildungsroman and the Western- and the interplay between the two forms is what gives the film its character. Emboldened by her newfound teenage status, Luli leaves her one-horse-town in the dust and sets out on the open road. With Las Vegasas her dubious intended destination and adventure foremost on her mind, Luli walks right into a modern western. Old Westerns generally focused on hardened individuals who could handle themselves in a tight spot. But, Luli, although not lacking in gumption, is just a little girl in thrall to the strangers who decide to pick her up and aid her juvenile journey.

Unlike most Westerns, Hick doesn’t flinch in its depiction of small town life in the West. All of the archetypes are there but with considerable less romantic gloss. Glenda (Blake Lively) is the strong-minded belle who doesn’t need a man to tie her down. Eddie (Eddie Raymanyne) is the young cowboy out to find a little slice of happiness wherever he can. But in this age, it’s hardly that simple.

These two forlorn characters find themselves adrift in the modern era where people are judged more by their resume than by their ability to handle a pistol. Glenda is addicted to cocaine and makes money by robbing convenience stores. Eddie has turned psychopathic after years of isolation and yearns for someone whom he can devote himself to, which, unfortunately, is where Luli fits in.

In this new style of Western, no one’s intentions are pure and old-style chivalry has taken a bow and exited the screen.  As in No Country for Old Men, among other modern Westerns, Hick explores the seedy underbelly of the quaint towns and dusty highways of the American West. In these films, the deterioration of long-standing societal morals in the face of rapid development and modernization are made manifest in the rotting minds and dying principles of the characters. Ironically, the character who comes to represent classic western gallantry is played by Alec Baldwin, a man most famous for playing an east coast television executive. 

Luli experiences abandonment and brutality on her western journey demonstrating the barbarous aspects of the area. But she, herself, is a symbol of the unique spirit of the American West, one that the characters of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne would be impressed by.