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Contrasting the mores of high society with the blunt savagery of primitive tribes, this film takes an inside look at the upper classes, examining the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of good manners. Sporting a biting wit, and featuring charismatic
Griffin Dunne was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short for "Duke of Groove" in 1995. Whether it's a screenplay that bounces like a ping-pong ball or the direction, the film seems to be trying to make the connection that even wealthy families have similarities to primitive civilizations. Brutality is an aspect of human nature would also sum up much of the film. The story seems quite unreal and nebulously defined as in the relationship of Donald Sutherland's Ogden C. Osbourne & Diane Lane. The plot is a cousin to the television series "Dirty Sexy Money" in which Sutherland also appeared as a wealthy patriarch.
Anton Yelchin who starred in Hearts in Atlantis with Anthony Hopkins and "Charlie Bartlett" is one of the best things about the film. His character Finn Earl seems like a teen who is always going to land on his feet and adapt to the many curves life throws at him. The violation of the boy is so charged that it makes what seemed like a romantic comedy suddenly dark and sinister. Chris Evans starred in Cellular (New Line Platinum Series), "The Fantastic Four" and this year in "Street Kings." His character seems warm and happy-go-lucky until we come to see the darker side. Evans never fully took me to the dark side or made me believe he was capable of the acts on which the film hinges. He was much better in the comic romantic aspect of the film. Diane Lane is so beautiful and natural as an actress, but again her casting as a boozy lush never really was believable. She never took us completely to the dark side.Read more ›
From the opening scenes of FIERCE PEOPLE (an interplay of tribal customs as photographed by the anthropologist father of the young narrator Finn Earl, demonstrating why this South American tribe of Ishkanani is so fierce) the direction of the film is nebulous: are we watching a dark comedy about comparing life in the New York streets to uncivilized peoples, or is this a message film of a more serious intent? But as the story develops this fine line between entertainment and philosophical impact becomes increasingly clear. Griffin Dunne's direction of Dirk Wittenborn's adaptation of his novel may be a bit careless at times as it strays from rational plot development, but in the end there is a strong enough final impact to patch up the holes he created.
Our narrator Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin) lives with his coke-addicted masseuse/sexually obsessed mother Liz (Diane Lane) in New York, waiting for the summer when he is to join his anthropologist father on a field trip to South America (a father he knows only from letters and videos), when a drug bust abruptly changes their lives: one of Liz's wealthy clients Ogden Osborne (Donald Sutherland) rescues the down and out family and moves them to his ten acre estate, the epitome of wealth and power. In exchange for being Osborne's private masseuse, Liz and Finn can live in the mansion with the 'filthy rich' Osbornes - daughter Mrs. Langley (Elizabeth Perkins) and grandchildren Bryce (Chris Evans) and Maya (Kristen Stewart). Osborne and his physician lead Liz on the drying out path and Finn bonds with Osborne and his grandchildren, and despite the disparity in poor versus wealthy, the living situation works - for a while.Read more ›
It is easy not to like "Fierce People". For starters, it doesn't know what it wants to be. The first 3/5 are some sort of a "Coming of Age story meets Robert Altman" kind of deal, and then it gets dark, really dark, and turns into a very dark Coming of Age story. The movie is unsure which one it really wishes to be, and none of those themes are fully realized.
And yet the five stars, yes. There are two reasons for this.
The first one is that "Fierce People" doesn't deserve a three-star rating. It deserves at least four.
The second are the leading cast. Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland are superb, even if they don't really have much to play. Anton Yelchin is the true star of the movie and - just like anything else he's been in - he does a wonderful job. His character Finn is smart and naive, lively and contemplative, and also sort of dense. That is, until he is forced to grow up fast and deal with a trauma that could haunt him for life if he lets it. Yelchin has some really tough dramatic moments to pull through, and he is brilliant in them.
There is a certain subtlety in the movie. You can't really say it tries to *tell* you anything, but it is not empty either. This is where the "Robert Altman" part kicks in, and even if "Fierce People" is not on this level, it still manages to speak without saying things outright. It has its flaws, and this lack of clarity is a deffinite one in the end, but it's far from stupid. Like I said at the beginning, the movie is unsure of what it is trying to be, but what it ends up being, is good enough, and the acting is amazing.
If that is enough for you, go ahead.
Oh, and the cover is ridiculous. It makes "Fierce People" look like a romantic comedy. It's not. It's anything but romantic comedy.
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