Bastard Out of Carolina

on December 15, 1996 by Ed Scheid
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"Bastard Out of Carolina"--the directorial debut of actress Anjelica Huston, whose father John was one of the all-time filmmaking greats--was originally intended as a made-for-television film for Ted Turner. The scheduled airing was canceled after Turner saw the film and decided it was inappropriate for his stations. But this Bastard" reflects its mixed parentage: It has the straightforward staging and uninflected pacing of a routine TV movie. Bone (Jena Malone) is the illegitimate daughter of Annie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), born into a family in which the men drink hard and the women age quickly. Bone's new stepfather (Ron Eldard) becomes increasingly hostile to her and ultimately violent. Her mother is unable to face the truth.
The grim subject matter of domestic violence is a regular small- screen topic, and most of the plot is predictable within the established parameters of the genre. Huston's monochromatic directing is strongest in the performances she gets from her actors, which are emphasized via extensive close-ups. Leigh ("Georgia") once again gives a fine performance of a woman whose hard edge hides her fragility. Malone is particularly effective as Bone. A good supporting cast includes Glenne Headley, Lyle Lovett, Huston's "Addams Family" offspring Christina Ricci and Diana Scarwid as Bone's relatives. Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. Directed by Anjelica Huston. Written by Anne Meredith. Produced by Gary Hoffman. An Out of Carolina production; no distributor set. Drama. Rated R for strong depiction of sexual and violent abuse, including a rape scene involving a young girl. Running time: 97 min. Screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes.
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