Review of Hick

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A Nebraska teen named Luli (Chloë Moretz) runs away from her alcoholic parents, bringing along a pistol. After she is taken under the wing of grifter Glenda (Blake Lively), who uses her in cons and makes her an accessory to a robbery, both their lives are threatened by an erratic drifter named Eddie (Eddie Redmayne).
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Rating: R
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: May 11, 2012
Directed by: Derick Martini
Genre: Comedy and Drama

"Hick" is a coming-of-age story about a young girl, a gun and a life-changing journey. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Blake Lively and Rory Culkin, the film takes a tried-and-true plot, adds a touch of stereotypical middle America and turns it into a passable movie-going experience.

The story opens on Luli (Moretz), who has just become a teenager. Her mother is the epitome of Midwestern white trash, as evidenced by the fact that her daughter's birthday party is held in a bar. After the party, Luli's mother leaves town with the latest in a string of men, abandoning her child. Old-before-her-time Luli, not one to be deterred, decides that this is her one and only chance to escape her miserable existence. Packing little more than a gun-which she got from an uncle at the birthday party in the bar-she heads off in the direction of Las Vegas.

Along the way, Luli meets a cast of characters who teach her various life lessons-some of which are very disturbing and will not be suitable for younger viewers. The young heroine experiences the rough side of life in the heartland of America and winds up more jaded and less innocent than she started. Although the focus of the movie is, ostensibly, Luli's goal of finding Las Vegas, "Hick" focuses on the journey more than the destination.

Chloë Grace Moretz is the shining light and the saving grace in "Hick." For a teenager, she has mastered the art of subtle emotion with the grace and skill of a much older actress. Her superior acting ability comes through in every moment of the movie, whether she is participating in a gas station robbery or practicing Clint Eastwood impressions in the mirror. Her character is a stereotypical Midwesterner who has grown up in less-than-ideal circumstances-which is nothing new in terms of coming-of-age films-but Moretz gives her an extra level of depth. She is particularly strong during close-up shots, when the audience can clearly see each emotion as it passes through her mind and over her face.

The supporting cast makes a strong effort to keep up with Moretz, but they are severely limited by the screenplay. The other characters in the film are merely caricatures-they are never developed enough to make audiences feel connected. Blake Lively stands out as Glenda, the drifting drug addict who offers Luli drugs and teaches her the fine art of robbery. Lively, who is better known for her lighthearted roles in movies like "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and the TV series "Gossip Girl," demonstrates her considerable acting chops in "Hick." She is appropriately scattered and ultimately likeable, though viewers may be left wanting more after the bizarre conclusion.

Eddie Redmayne gives a suitably creepy performance as Eddie, a limping cowboy who Luli meets along her journey. He is, at times, unbearably unlikable, particularly as he brings young Luli into one bad situation after another. Although Redmayne is a talented actor, his role is so distasteful and so badly written that it is difficult to let the good shine through. Juliette Lewis gives a characteristically excellent performance as Luli's wayward mother.

"Hick" is based on a novel by Andrea Portes, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. While the dark drama works on the page, it fails to translate to the screen. The minor characters never gain enough traction or development to become truly three-dimensional, leaving viewers feeling shortchanged. Portes, while successful with the book, displays a lack of finesse in her screenplay that is glaringly obvious on screen.

Director Derick Martini creates several strong moments throughout "Hick" but fails to settle on one style. He alternates between dreamy scenes of Luli's drawings and harsh shots of the traumatic experiences she finds on the road, which creates an odd disconnect between the characters and the viewers. In one of the most disturbing scenes of the movie, a rape happens while a soaring love song plays, leaving audiences feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Although Martini makes an admirable effort, "Hick" is likely to remain one of his most forgettable directing attempts. In the end, the movie tries to find a shred of conviction in its scattered storyline, but, like its main character, comes off as confused and lost.

Overall, "Hick" is a reasonably entertaining movie, mostly based on the skill of its leading actress. Her subtle approach to Luli will captivate audiences, who will wait to see how she reacts to each situation and root for her triumph in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars