Hollywood needs to stop making Chloe Grace Moretz happen. This girl’s too goddamn talented to try to cram her down our throats like so much clotting Whopper. I almost titled this “The Woeful Parable of Dakota Fanning.” It’s not her fault, but Moretz is the default choice for young actress in Hollywood these days. But they’re marketing her all wrong. What made her turns in Hugo and Bolt so wonderful is that she played a sweet little girl, because she’s got cherubic little cheeks and a pleasant demeanor. What made her turns in Kick-Ass and (500) Days of Summer so wonderful is that she played a tough no-bullshit little girl, with cherubic little cheeks and a pleasant exterior. But what’s making her fail in her latest two outings, Dark Shadows and Derick Martini’s Hick, is that they’re trying to turn her outer parts into the inner badass. Twice, she tries to dance sultrily to 1970’s music while older men talk to her about her birthing hips. It’s just not working. Keep Baby in the fucking corner. She’s doing a goddamn good job there.
Everything that was enjoyable about Derick Martini’s Lymelife is precisely what’s wrong with Hick. Lymelife took care to build a nice suburban homestead and then pry up the floorboards and show you all the mold and rot. The characters slowly revolve to show their shadows, and it makes you complicit in the downfall. Hick, whose screenplay was written by the original novel’s author Andrea Portes, plays out like a series of stuttered vignettes, linked in the way that things falling into a hole are all affected by gravity. It’s a middle school play version of Natural Born Killers, little kids playing their elders parts, a sloppy confused version of The Getaway. The actors are all good, but it’s like watching kids in their parents clothing playing dress-up. It’s so cliché that it never has an opportunity to be tawdry, ugly blotchy like poorly done makeup and not because of deep tissue scarring.
Chloe Moretz plays Luli, a Nebraska teen who doodles while dreaming of a life in Vegas. Her home life is troubled, with a drunk father and a whorish mother, played by Juliette Lewis. You can practically see the wistfulness on Lewis’s scrunchy features as she remembers when she would be playing Luli. Anyway, this part whisks by like a gust of wind rustling roadside stand postcards, and soon Luli’s on the road with a bag full of her momma’s tops, her sketchpad, and the handgun she got during her barroom birthday. She meets up with the rickety drifter Eddie (Eddie Redmayne), a cowpoke with a limp and a bad attitude. You get a bad feeling right away from the twitchy feller, as he seems the kind hench for real shittheels. Quickly, he’s out and in drifts Glenda (Blake Lively), who leaps out of her car to piss next to a culvert and nearly bewettens the head of snoozing Luli. Glenda becomes a pseudo-role model to Luli, teaching her the virtues of snorting coke and robbing convenience stores.
Eventually all three paths intersect in what almost works as a narrative. Only it feels like someone trying to retell Lolita who’s only ever seen “My Name is Earl” and “Married With Children.” The acting’s not terrible - Blake Lively does a fine job as the roadrunning post-Thelma and Louise landshark and Eddie Redmayne tends to be at his fishmouthed best when he’s barely unstable - but it never quite finds a proper tone. It judders like a teen learning to drive stick, shifting gears erratically ruining both the smooth progression and probably breaking most of the shit inside. Rory Culkin and Alec Baldwin turn up as favors and to bolster the poster credits, but this is mostly about the three lead characters. There’s never enough menace even when horrible things are happening, because the entire film feels like kids playing at things they read about in a magazine. Even with various attempted rapes, kidnappings, and murders in the story, nothing gets near the level of creepy as Rodney Dangerfield’s brief turn as Mallory’s father in Natural Born Killers.
It’s kind of like that Carrie Underwood song “Before He Cheats.” A gal founds out her man’s cheating with some girl who can’t handle whiskey, sings “Shania karaoke” and so she cuts up his tires and shatters his truck headlights with a baseball bat. Which, okay, it’s a fake country song. But can you actually picture Carrie Underwood doing that? She’s a fucking church mouse. I think she said fuck once and cried for a week. You aren’t P!nk, honey. You wear pink. I figured with what Martini was able to do for Emma Roberts and the brothers Culkin in Lymelife, this would be a walk in the park. But it never truly gets as gruesome and horrible as it needs to. Lymelife burrows under the skin, while Hick is barely a rash.