Main cast: Chloë Grace Moretz (Luli McMullen), Blake Lively (Glenda), Eddie Redmayne (Eddie Kreezer), Juliette Lewis (Tammy), Anson Mount (Nick), and Alec Baldwin (Beau)
Director: Derick Martini
Luli McMullen is not a happy girl. Her father Nick is a drunk who is rarely able to stand on his feet, and her mother Tammy clings to any man that can offer her an opportunity to escape her marriage with a desperation that is evident even to Luli. On her thirteenth birthday, Luli receives a Smith & Wesson from her uncle, and, taking this gun with her, she decides to leave home in Nebraska and strike out to Las Vegas, where she hopes a better life can be found. She soon finds herself in the company of the likes of Glenda, a grifter who at first takes Luli under wing reluctantly, and Eddie, a charming drifter.
Hick is based on the novel of same name by Andrea Portes, and the author also wrote the screenplay here. Perhaps as if to avoid getting in trouble too much with moral crusader folks out there, this movie skirts around the darker issues that are tackled by the book that arise mostly due to Luli’s developing sexuality and the reaction of the people she meets, as well as her occasional clumsy efforts to explore their reaction to her. In this movie, Luli is pretty chaste apart from the occasional clumsy come-on lines to guys, although she clearly attracts the attention of the predators she meets along her way to Las Vegas.
What this movie is, instead… hmm, now that I think of it, I’m not sure what this is supposed to be about. The relationship between Glenda and Luli, perhaps? But while Blake Lively has some good chemistry in her scenes with Chloë Grace Moretz’s Luli, and these scenes have an unexpectedly enjoyable “reluctant mother hen teaches a stray chick how to be tough in the world” vibe, these two ladies spend only a short time together on screen. Perhaps this movie is about the creepy relationship between Eddie and Luli? Mr Redmayne portrays his character with easy aplomb – it’s quite easy to forget that he’s a Brit as he slips into his role effortless despite an occasional slip-up of accent – and he certainly brings on a convincing mix of charm and disturbing sleaze with every move. But Eddie is all over the place as a character, and the movie only establishes him as an interesting monster too late in the movie for me to care.
Perhaps the movie is about Luli? Ms Moretz certainly has no problems holding her own solidly among the older cast members, and her acting is convincing instead of contrived and forced like so many young actors tend to be. But her Luli doesn’t know what she wants, and worse, the movie doesn’t seem to know what it wants from Luli. Luli spends the entire movie constantly ignoring the advice of Eddie and Glenda, and while this may be a realistic trait of a 13-year old kid, Luli’s deliberate flaunting of sensible advice to get into trouble soon seems like a rather contrived effort to bring on the drama. Isn’t there a better way to keep the momentum of the movie going? At the end of the movie, I have no idea what truly makes Luli tick. She’s an unhappy girl who wants more from her life than to be trapped forever in Palmyra, Nebraska, but so?
The ultimate failure of Hick, therefore, is its inability to give me any reason to care for Luli. By the end of the movie, I don’t know whether Luli has learned anything, and she certainly hasn’t learned not to approach strangers for help. I appreciate the solid performances of the cast, and I also like how this movie actually avoid being too exploitative of its lead character, but by trying too hard to be safe, it ends up being a rather meandering movie unsure of what it really wants to tell me.