By Fred Topel | Image property of Empire Film Group
The rape of a 12-year-old girl is the least offensive thing about Hounddog. I don't need any advanced buzz to color my view of this. I always hate artsy fartsy reveling in lowlife misery.
The film opens with Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) trading kisses for a glimpse at a boy's privates. Now, I'm all for reality. I know kids do this, and it can probably be a good form of exploration. But already it is for its own sake. The film revels in its own audacity and "issues." And they have fake southern accents to boot.
Lewellen lives with her drunk father (David Morse) and religious freak grandma (Piper Laurie). It's a poor, broken family but Lewellen sings Elvis so it's all so hopeful. Daddy also screws his girlfriend (Robin Wright Penn) from behind, pressing her face against the window. It is exactly like a student film. "Let's show bold, daring things and force people to confront their hidden secrets." There's a film professor out there who thinks it's brilliant.
They keep telling Lewellen not to grow up yet, so obviously she's going to have to grow up prematurely. Even when the poor battered girlfriend cries, the wise little girl understands her. Although, then she stands by her dad, insinuating that his girlfriend asked for a beating. But singing Elvis makes it all better.
Okay, we haven't gotten to the rape yet but we're seeing Fanning in soaking wet white underwear playing in the river, gyrating like Elvis. That's worse that an exploitative rape scene. This is just the filmmakers deciding to depict salacious behavior. I'm still not saying it's unreal, but misguided youth is far different than grown-ups giving voice to such behavior. If you need an example of the alternative, someone like Todd Solondz is responsible with his material.
Then there is a brain damaged character, I won't spoil it, but he really acts like "Simple Jack" in Tropic Thunder. They really just throw in a retard, and I use the improper word on purpose, because it is so just an actor playing up the cliché and a filmmaker relishing in it.
Okay, then the scene finally comes. She actually cuts her hand on a nail during the rape. Seriously? In case you're not following along, that's a metaphor. By the end, they throw in the N word and the retard gets naked. I'm calling him a retard because I hope the people protesting Tropic Thunder come after me too.
Hounddog is only slightly above Snow Angels. Snow Angels was simply miserable. At least with Hounddog, you can be morbidly entertained by just how offensive it continues to get.