“Hounddog” and the media storm that accompanied its world premiere on Monday expose the contradictions that grip Sundance, which insists on its commitment to quality even as it continues to program work that suggests otherwise. A Southern gothic about a white girl (Ms. Fanning) who learns how to sing the blues from a kindly black man after she is raped, the film had earned censure sight unseen from the likes of Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel.(Oh, so it's also another one of those movies about how white people learn the meaning of life from idealized black people? Can't we retire that cliché?)
As sincere as it is stupid, “Hounddog” is pure art-house exploitation, as evidenced by the images of its 12-year-old star dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties, of her writhing on a bed and of her awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime to the Elvis Presley song of the film’s title. As in “The Accused” (the Jodie Foster rape movie), the film’s narrative momentum builds to the rape, which is discreetly staged; unfortunately, it is also presented with some of the same tropes of the classic movie love scene: there is a shot of the girl’s clutching hand and, after the assault, a close-up of her face. Ms. Fanning’s commitment to this material is unwavering in its creepiness.Dargis obviously can't stand Sean Hannity and his ilk, but she's not letting that keep her from seeing what's wrong with this. By contrast, read this wrongheaded blather by Meghan O'Rourke in Slate, which concludes:
The problem for an American audience weaned on this waif, and chock-a-block with repressed feelings about adolescent sexuality itself, is that Dakota Fanning the actress (if not the character she plays) has chosen to take on this graphic a role. She has opened Pandora's box. Once she has become part of the sexual economy of adolescence—about which Americans are so clearly conflicted, living as we do in a hypersexualized era that is also peculiarly hyperprotective of children—she can't go back.Sorry, Meghan, those of us who do not want to see a 12-year-old girl dressed in a wet T-shirt and panties... writhing on a bed and... awkwardly grinding in a hootchy-kootchy pantomime are not repressed and conflicted and hyperprotective.