SXSW Report: Dollhouse, Electrick Children, and King Kelly

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For the last week, Paste has been catching you up on the films of SXSW 2012. Here are three more narrative films we caught there:

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Fans of Kirsten Sheridan’s previous work, including August Rush (which she directed) and In America (for which she co-wrote the script and was nominated for an Academy Award), proceed with caution. Dollhouse is NOT your father’s Kirsten Sheridan film. But proceed you should nonetheless, because it’s a fascinating character study and exploration of the careless nihilism of youth and what it takes to transcend it. Shot from a script derived primarily from improv, the film opens with a group of teenagers breaking into, and trashing, a posh house by an Irish lake. Just what has happened previously in the house, and who these people are, will become significant in surprising ways. It’s an incredibly disturbing film, but one that will ultimately stay with viewers long after they leave the theater. A brave film from Sheridan, and a moving one.

Electrick Children
Sheltered Mormon girl gets knocked up by listening to a rock ‘n’ roll cassette tape and leaves her family to find the father. What does it all mean? Is it supposed to mean anything? Such are the questions that surfaced in the wake of Electrick Children. The film, written and directed by newcomer Rebecca Thomas, certainly plays well. Starring Rory Culkin, Julia Garner and Liam Aiken, it rolls along pleasantly to form a fun little ride. Thomas’ use of contrast both visually and thematically—a fundamentalist Mormon family against the lively music, bright lights and young hipsters of Las Vegas—gives Electrick Children energy and a sense of wonder. The characters also prove real and fascinating due to some riveting performances, especially that of Garner as the pregnant protagonist. She carefully balances out a persona of innocence and exploration, making us believe that she believes God miraculously impregnated her. The story itself, though, never delves into anything profound and, unfortunately, stays somewhat thin. As an entertaining and lighthearted coming-of-the-age piece, it totally works, but the spiritual and religious ramifications of the story remain as stones unturned.

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King Kelly
Andrew Neel’s King Kelly, filmed exclusively on an iPhone, utilizes the amateur-footage narrative that has proven so effective within the horror genre (i.e. Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity). In this film, such novice camerawork magnifies the point of view of the character filming it, causing audiences accustomed to the world of high definition and 3D to disregard the shaky scenes. The thechnique sacrifices quality in exchange for a strong and well-told story. Even the most liberal of folk may flinch during the opening scenes, cringing as they try to overcome the bratty and ignorant Kelly (Louisa Krause) while she obnoxiously films every second of life, including salacious (and at times graphic) bits of herself for an online pay-for-a-peep website. She bounces around her oblivious parents in patriotic negligees, convincing herself that she is invincible. Apart from gaining income from her Internet sex shows, she also moonlights as a drug mule and is soon given a high dose of reality when she discovers that her car (which was just stolen by her ex-boyfriend) held a mob-boss helping of heroine, not the prescription pills she thought she was transporting. All goes haywire during her drug and vodka fueled Fourth of July escapade to steal back the heroin, with the help of her tagalong best friend Jordan (whose iPhone provides us with a second point of view). Poo Bare, a police officer and conveniently Kelly’s number one online admirer, saves the day until the tables are turned yet again. After struggling to accept Kelly for who she is – a lost and hopeless young adult vying for the attention of, well, anyone – the talent of newcomer Louisa Krause shines through the title character in King Kelly, a worthwhile display of the current generation of viral videos and online updating, and the consequences that come with it. -Cailtin Colford

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