My Blogomatic review of Electrick Children. Mostly it just reminded me of how good the second season of LOST was:
The trailer for Electrick Children is a little misleading. Upon first seeing it before a showing of Dark Knight Riseslast week, it appeared from the lingering shots of eccentrically-dressed youths skateboarding and the soft electronic soundtrack to concern itself with that most loathsome of subcultures, HIPSTERS. Upon making this assumption, the friend sat next to me practically hissed in his contempt for the film, despite knowing nothing else about it.
This anecdote, I think, reflects well the possible acquired taste Electrick Children might end up being, despite not actually being (entirely) about hipsters.
The film centers on Rachel (Garner), a 15 year-old girl living in a strict Utah Mormon colony, who falls pregnant after listening to a cassette recording of ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ and tussling with her brother, Mr. Will (Aiken), who tries to take the forbidden tape player off of her. Upon discovering her pregnancy, her mother and father immediately suspect Mr. Will, sending him off into exile and arranging a shotgun wedding for Rachel. She reacts like any sensible pregnant Mormon girl and steals a pickup truck to escape that night in search of the voice on the tape, assuming that it was he (it’s not the Blondie version, obv) who filled her full of baby. Mr. Will follows her, and soon they fall in with a group of young musicians and their entourage, including a troubled (but clearly capable of redemption) fella named Clyde (Culkin). The pair are soon introduced into a totally different lifestyle, experiencing drugs, extreme sports and kissing for the first time.
It’s at this point that the film takes a turn for the banal. Its languorous pace is fitting when we’re in the open yet confined plains of Utah, in which a slow, corseted tension envelopes the religious folk, but out in the big wide world it quickly tires. We’ve seen this kind of fish out of water movie before (and frankly, it was more interesting to see Randy Quaid’s Amish bowler enter the real world in Kingpin) and Electrick Children doesn’t add much to the mix except a predictable love story ending and a mystical pregnancy that’s never resolved…
…Which is really the only question I wanted answered from this movie! How on earth did she get pregnant? Rachel seems not to care all that much after giving up on her quest to find a musician to wed, so God probably wasn’t working through Debbie Harry’s back catalogue after all, and if her brother assaulted her like her mother assumes there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between the two.
Honestly, it’s ridiculous: The first half of the film is filled with people saying “Holy shit, you’re pregnant!” and by the closing scenes it’s all but forgotten. Which is a shame, because films like Doubt have shown that there’s a heap of tension and moral anxiety to be wrung out of a ‘did-they-didn’t-they’ situation. Forgive me if I sound glib; of course, it’s a serious notion, but first-time writer-director Rebecca Thomas seems to be more concerned with getting Rachel into scrapes than figuring out a way to justifiably get her out of them.
Julia Garner as Rachel is actually a joy to watch, pulling off the innocent prairie queen routine with bravery and not a hint of self-consciousness. Thomas has her and Will remain in their colony outfits throughout, so they seem terribly alien in the landscape of lights and smog. It’s also nice to see Cynthia Watros as Rachel’s mum getting more mainstream(ish) acting work – as one of the few LOST fans (along with Mr. Jack Kirby) who still remembers the show fondly, it was a blow to see her Libby killed off so soon after joining the cast.
[If you think that was a spoiler for LOST, you’re about six years too late to complain. Get over it.]
Not quite mumblecore and not a particular indictment of any of society’s structures (other than the Mormon church, but can you really count such an easy target?), it’s uncertain what message Electrick Children is trying to get across, but undoubtedly the slow visual style and (admittedly rather lovely) score will attract some kind of audience. It just might not be one that cares too much about story.
Also annoying: they never had the original Blondie version of the song in the movie. I totally wanted the girl to be searching for a Videodrome-era Debbie Harry so they could get married and dive inside James Woods (it’s a Cronenberg thing, okay?).