Directed: Deborah Kampmeier
In late 1950's rural Alabama, young Lewellen lives with her stern religious grandmother, Grammie, but spends most of her time with her much-adored, wild and rough Daddy in his falling down shack. Lewellen is deeply talented and finds comfort and safety, as well as a place to put her hurt and rage, in the music of Elvis Presley, even though Charles, the wise groundskeeper of the mansion down the road, tries to convince her that "there is more to fill out that emptiness with than just Elvis." Lewellen and her closest friend, Buddy, are caught in a shed during a heavy rainstorm. During the storm Daddy is struck by lightning and the event leaves him incapacitated as an emotional and mental child. Grammie is convinced that Daddy was stricken down by God to punish Lewellen for her alleged sins with Buddy.
Lewellen becomes Daddy's caretaker and their dysfunctional relationship becomes even more pronounced, Lewellen becoming the parent and Daddy the child. Without any guidance, Lewellen begins to move into dangerous terrain. When Elvis Presley comes to town for a concert, Lewellen is desperate to go but has no money for a ticket. So, Buddy tricks Lewellen into dancing and singing like Elvis for Wooden's Boy in exchange for tickets he has to the concert. During the impersonation, Wooden's Boy attacks Lewellen and leaves her innocence behind. Lewellen's descent into the cycle of abuse and her own pursuit of self-destruction begins. It is only Charles who can see the spirit in Lewellen and save her soul. He teaches her to use music, "the Blues," to turn her tragedy into a gift.
Excellent acting by Dakota Fanning.
Movie ReviewsMuch ado about nothing
Hounddog, written by director Deborah Kampmeier received a storm of complaints before the Sundance festival in 2007, from groups concerned about a scene in which a girl named Lewellen is raped by a teenage boy. The groups had not yet seen the film.
The New York-based Catholic League earlier called for a federal probe to determine whether child pornography laws were violated because Fanning, like the character she plays, is 12 years old.
In the rape scene, only Fanning's face, neck, shoulders, hand and foot appear onscreen. Much of the rape is depicted in darkness, with flashes of lightning and the sound of Lewellen screaming "stop it, stop it".
Kampmeier told Reuters that the scene onscreen is exactly how the film was shot on a closed set with a limited crew.
"It's important for people to remember that when you are crafting a film, you are putting images next to each other. It's not like we had Dakota acting out a rape, we didn't," she said.
"Dakota and I were there together."
Fanning, who has played children in numerous Hollywood films like Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds and most recently Charlotte's Web, said conjuring up the emotion for the scene was like any other. She said the controversy over the scene was "blown out of proportion".
"I'm not going through anything like that, it's just my character. It's just another scene and wasn't any different from anything else I've done," Fanning said.
"Dakota was screaming 'Stop it'. She could be screaming 'stop it' about anything," Kampmeier added.
Sundance is the top US film festival for movies made outside Hollywood's mainstream studios. Movies screening at the festival often tackle dark subjects that are more true to life than Hollywood's entertainment.
Well, as most critcs have already slated the movie - I watched with an
open, but cautious mind - and sure enough, it truly is terrible.
Explotative of Fanning's genuine talent, the film takes a well worn plot
device (well, several of them) and does nothing new with it.
Dakota spends the first two thirds of the film running about in her
undies, flirting with anyone who'll pay her any attention, gets raped
and consequently covers up!
As has been suggested, her mother should be totally ashamed. There was
no way a film with such a terrible, derivative script was ever gonna
make the Oscar shortlist - so quite what her motivation was for pointing
her in the direction of this project is anybody's guess! Presumably, she
wants her daughter thought of as a "serious" young actress as she hits
Fair enough - but remaking "Bastard out of Carolina" with a headier dash
of Southern cliches, a few snakes and an Elvis fixation does not a great
Of course, Fanning delivers a good turn here - she always does - but
quite what the fuck David Morse thinks he's doing, I have no idea. At
least the bit where he's struck by lightening made me laugh!
So, it thinks it's far more than the sum of its parts and is, in actual
Still, Dakota's a cutie and since she's, what, 13 now - we won't be
seeing her in the same light ever again.
-- Jordan Collier