Who's in It:
Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb, Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Hopper
The Basics: There are these white people, and they're all dead-enders. And they're depressed. And then Mommy's drug-dealer boyfriend gets arrested. And then Mommy goes out and sluts around with a stranger and kicks her own daughter out of bed so she can use it for hanky-panky purposes. And then Mommy abandons her daughter. And then the kid and her uncle hang around his dreary, dirty apartment. And then they hit the road in the junker Mommy left behind. Then they go to the family farm where they run into Hopper, the cruel and abusive patriarch. It gets worse from there
What's the Deal? The problem isn't that it's bleak. (I love bleak.) The problem is that its main accomplishment seems to be a robot-like ability to ape every downer convention of indie cinema and still wind up being about nothing.
How You Know You're Doomed: The opening shot is of Theron's hooker boots. "You don't need to know a single thing more about this woman," says that shot. It's the kind of obvious, condescending, "get a load of these white-trash losers" commentary that puts it in the same camp as insulting stuff like Epic Movie. But at least in Epic Movie, when things are underlined that heavily, there's no one around trying to make you feel like you're watching art.
What Doesn't Suck About It: The underrated Stahl seems to be trying to single-handedly carry it to safety. But how much of being the best thing in a piece of crap can you really feel good about? It's not like you can walk around afterward saying, "Well, the movie was weak, but I got good reviews." Even then you'd sound like a jerk.
Even Young Careers Stumble: Robb handles herself well here but deserves better. Maybe she can have lunch with Dakota Fanning and ask her how she's dealing with the poorly received Hound Dog.