Release Date: September 7th, 2007 by After Dark Films.
The Cast: Diane Lane, Anton Yelchin, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Perkins, Paz de la Huerta, Chris Evans.
Directed by Griffin Dunne.
BASIC PREMISE: During the summer of 1980, 16-year-old Finn (Yelchin) and his drug-addicted mother, Liz (Lane), move into the guesthouse of a wealthy man, Ogden (Sutherland), where she tries to clean her act up and Finn comes of age. Based on the novel by Dirk Wittenborn.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Part coming-of-age drama, part social satire and part romanceFierce People has a fine cast with strong performances, but its unfocused plot awkwardly jumps around between different genres. Anton Yelchin gives a decent performance as Finn, a teenager who lives with his mom, Liz, a drug-addict earning her income as a masseuse. Finn gets into legal trouble when he’s caught carrying cocaine and, as a penalty, can’t spend his summer vacation in the Amazon rain forest where his deceased father, an anthropologist, studied the behavior of tribes. Soon enough, Liz takes her son to an affluent town called Vlyvalle, New Jersey to spend the rest of the summer in a guesthouse of one of her rich clients, Ogden, an arrogant billionaire who flirts with her. At this point the plot becomes a mess of too many conflicts and poorly developed subplots. Finn meets Obgden’s beautiful granddaughter, Maya (Stewart) and her overprotective brother, Bryce (Evans). Not surprisingly, Finn and Maya have a romance which provokes Bryce to get into their way. Screenwriter Dirk Wittenborn fails to bring any of the characters to life so that you care about them, especially Finn. A plot twist during the second act feels very contrived and leads to some awkward melodrama with real tension. Moreover, none of the social comparisons between the African tribes and the rich people in American society are compelling enough—even Mean Girls links the two in a much more coherent and engaging way. The stand-outs here, though, are Diane Lane, who channels her performance in the far superior coming-of-age period piece, A Walk on the Moon, and Donald Sutherland, an underrated actor who adds much-needed gravitas to a very messy film.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Unfocused, contrived and awkward.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 5
IN A NUTSHELL: A fine cast and strong performances don’t compensate for an unfocused, contrived and awkward plot.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: TV
The "F" Menu