"Hounddog" is from the overheated and overacted school of Southern drama, filled with stereotypical characters, pseudo-poetic dialogue, and heavy symbolism ("Hounddog"'s biggest deviation from formula is that it features a killer R&B band that plays into the dead of night, presumably on call should 12-year-old girls need help with their personal problems). Fanning stars as Lewellen, a girl obsessed with Elvis who lives with her no-good father (David Morse) and her strict grandmother (Piper Laurie).Piper Laurie! I'd be waiting for li'l Dakota to start making all the kitchen knives fly through the air!
Oh, sorry, I got distracted thinking about a time when movies were such great fun. And deep too!
Back to "Hounddog," with its hangdog earnestness (and 12-year-old actress in a simulated rape scene):
Fanning plays the character as a cross between an innocent child and a wise strumpet; as a whole, "Hounddog" seems conceived simply to give her a role to flex her pre-teen acting chops.Well, I guess I'm glad the movie's bad and hope it goes nowhere. I would hate to see it get traction out of getting a rise out of social conservatives with something that good feminists should/used to care about. But the issue is still not dead. The fact that the movie isn't "kiddie porn" or that the scene as edited into the movie is "handled without exploitation" is no answer to the problem discussed at length in this post and its many comments. The problem was the use of the child actor to film the scene. The final cut of the scene and how it looks to movie viewers is a separate matter from how the child was treated on those days when she was filming the movie. This is a matter covered by statutory law and by moral principle, and there's no special exception for high-class films or overheated and overacted Southern dramas posing as high class.
The film has generated its share of controversy due to a scene in which Fanning's character is raped (it's handled without exploitation). Kiddie porn it isn't. Unfortunately, "Hounddog" isn't much of anything. It doesn't really resonate as a coming-of-age story, a family drama, or an exploration of the 1950s Southern experience, leaving precious little left but the controversy.
Ultimately, "Hounddog" is pretty mangy.
MORE: Here's Orlando Sentinel critic Kathleen Parker:
[In Hounddog,] we witness a real 12-year-old portray a girl waking up as her naked father climbs into bed with her; "dancing" in her underwear while lying in bed; and getting raped by a teenage boy.
We are, in other words, voyeurs to a young girl acting out a sexual predator's fantasies. If we have a problem with that, we're told these are real issues that beg honest exploration. No, amend that. We're lectured -- by a 12-year-old, who, we're reminded, is a sophisticated actress.
"You know, I'm an actress," Fanning patiently explained to The New York Times. "It's what I want to do, it's what I've been so lucky to have done for almost seven years now. And I am getting older."
Does anything quite equal the ennui born of being scolded by a too-precious child?
Far be it for anyone to suggest that adults know more about such things than children. At least some of them do. Fanning's parents support their daughter's decision to play the rape scene, noting that this could cinch an Oscar for the child star.
Even Marc Klaas -- the ubiquitous been-there father of his murdered daughter Polly -- has given his nod to the film, vouching for its sensitive, supportive treatment of Fanning.
Only the actress' face is shown during the rape scene, which reportedly has been tastefully executed.
It's hard to get enough of tasteful rapes, I admit. Unless you're a real child rapist, the bunch of whom doubtless will be sufficiently stimulated by Fanning's rape-face, as well as her panty-dance and her little visit from bad Daddy.
But it's Art, so relaaaaax. And it's real, so get with it.