Derick Martini is stuck in a rut of coming-of-age movies. His first feature, the 2008 artistic failure Lymelife, was a coming-of-age opus about dysfunctional young people struggling to get out of Long Island and survive miserable marriages, a real estate crisis, the doomed economy and Lyme disease. His new one, a deadly dud of a horror called Hick, is a hopped-up coming-of-age road movie about a dysfunctional, filthy-mouthed 13-year-old runaway named Luli (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is trying to hitchhike her way from a hick town in Nebraska all the way to Vegas. I can’t say I blame her for getting the hell out of Nebraska, but the way she does it is the stuff autopsies are made of.
Based on a smarmy novel by Andrea Portes (who adapted the screenplay), the movie opens on Luli’s 13th birthday, when she gets a Smith and Wesson .45 for a present and decides to make the most of it. What’s she got to lose by hitting the road? Her skanky mother (another cliché-riddled performance by Juliette Lewis) and alcoholic stepfather are both dead-end nightmares who spend their nights getting obnoxiously tanked, then rutting like farm pigs. So Luli packs up her gun—it will come in handy later—dressed like Shirley Temple in heat (ghastly thought, but no worse than anything in this picture) and gets picked up by a broken cowboy named Eddie with a Stetson hat and a permanent limp from his days as a failed rodeo rider. Eddie seems charming because he’s played by the wonderful, charismatic Eddie Redmayne, but he’s a bona fide psychopath whose sole aim is to work out his sadistic S&M fantasies on Luli as a nubile sex object. She also meets a grifter named Glenda (the aptly named Blake Lively), who becomes Luli’s cocaine-snorting fairy godmother. From here on, the movie careers downhill with the speed of an unhinged kangaroo with one foot. People are beaten senseless and shot to death in filthy motel bathrooms. There’s a near-rape by a pool shark. Someone urinates in a drink.
Instead of trying to bring some troubling insight to the tragedy of boring, small-town adolescence, director Martini concentrates on painting a pretty lurid picture of the American countryside—bowling alleys, Dairy Queens, brothels, Motel 6’s. Eddie shoots Glenda. Luli kills Eddie. Alec Baldwin, who owns a camp in the woods, makes scrambled eggs, growls, “Eat your goddam fluffy eggs,” and drives Luli to the bus station. Following the ho-hum you-can’t-go-home-again theme, Luli goes home defeated to find her former home turned into a Walmart. The pace is funereal, the dialogue consists of brilliant lines like “Rise and shine, sugar tits!” and the result is pointless even as a coming-of-age fable since Luli never develops as anyone with the brain of a cockroach. The acting is feisty but forced, and after the sensitive and dynamic Mr. Redmayne won the Tony award for Red, followed by a riveting centerpiece performance in My Week with Marilyn, it’s anybody’s guess just who talked him into lending his name to this trash. Nothing he does can be ignored, hence this one-star review. The rest of Hick adds up to nothing more than a tax write-off.
I guess the only real theme of Hick is: Life is crap, and then you write about it.
Running time 97 minutes
Written by Andrea Portes (novel) and Andrea Portes (screenplay)
Directed by Derick Martini
Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Blake Lively and Rory Culkin