Sunday, September 8, 2013
A ROTTEN TOMATO: Electrick Children
For a cinephile, there's nothing more disappointing than a film that fails to live up to its promise. Such is the case with Rebecca Thomas' directorial debut "Electrick Children". On the surface, it's quite the intriguing premise - a young Mormon girl Rachel (played by Julia Garner) becomes miraculously pregnant through rock and roll music and heads to Las Vegas to find the father of her child. Unfortunately, this gem of a concept doesn't flourish as it should.
When the film starts, we are introduced to various characters that lay the foundation for some interesting themes. The film gives us a fleeting glance at the prospects of a probing story examining coming of age, feminism, religion and general self-discovery. Unfortunately, the film often feels like a rough outline of a screenplay, as none of these are sufficiently developed. Take for instance Rachel's mother (played by Cynthia Watros), a housewife who obviously had an adventurous past and still longs for more. Watros' portrayal gives her much depth, but the narrative seems one step behind. Likewise, Julia Garner gives Rachel a layered performance that seems at odds with the film's indifferent writing. Her acting presence suggests someone who is smart and inquisitive, yet the narrative forces her to be so narrow-minded.
It's perhaps a case of focusing on the wrong characters then. Much of the film is dedicated to Rachel's brother, who is the one that accused of impregnating his sister. In choosing to have him accompany her on her Vegas road trip, the viewer expects significant character development. Disappointingly, his story arc is largely inconsequential.
As the film navigates its unusual plotline, you begin to realize that the film's ideas are not fully formed. How did she get pregnant? How does this new environment influence her sheltered past? The concept of the film could have been a complex psychological drama, but it plays out almost like mumblecore. None of the important questions are given satisfying answers and it makes for a pointless film. Without a clear direction, the journey becomes slow and dull.
In the end, one could give this film a passing grade for attempting something unique, but a good idea does not a good film make. The acting performances may be strong, but they don't make up for the film's thoroughly lackluster setup.