There would seem to be plenty to get excited about in Derick Martini’s second feature film, Hick (based on the novel by Andrea Portes). If the plot is not especially enticing (a young girl from a hick town leaves home, travels West, and experiences the evils of the world), then the cast certainly garners attention. Chloë Grace Moretz takes the lead, playing alongside Juliette Lewis, Blake Lively, Eddie Redmayne and Alec Baldwin. Moretz and Redmayne each starred in two major pictures from last year (Hugo and My Week With Marilyn, respectively), and their pairing here certainly makes for an intriguing mixture. Unfortunately, the parts are greater than the whole, and despite standout performances from the cast (especially Redmayne and Lively), Hick leaves the viewer more confused than satisfied. Though Hick promises danger, sex (or at least sexiness) and adventure, it delivers a dry tale lacking in real action or intensity.
Moretz plays Luli McMullen, the product of a broken, alcoholic Nebraskan home. In the beginning of the film, her mother (played aptly, but briefly by Juliette Lewis) decides to throw Luli’s thirteenth birthday party in a bar because that’s what hicks, apparently, do. After both of her parents disappear, Luli decides to hitchhike to Las Vegas. Needless to say, things do not go quite as planned.
When Luli gets picked up by Eddie (Redmayne), things start to get interesting. Eddie’s character is delightfully creepy to watch both in his obvious attraction to the little girl riding beside him and in his apparent sincerity (such as when he throws her out of the car for being rude). Blake Lively also gives a solid performance as Glenda, another driver who picks up Luli, although (thankfully), the viewer has not seen the last of Eddie. As the film grows darker, Luli is introduced to a world of drugs and crime, not to mention to the raging, jealous obsession of Eddie.
Moretz’s Luli seems dull alongside the knockout performances from Redmayne and Lively. Other than the obvious (young and supple good looks), it is difficult to understand Eddie’s pull towards Luli. At times, she is clearly thirteen, with a certain burgeoning—but innocent—sexuality. Unfortunately, her innocence often comes across as good ol’ fashioned stupidity. A backstory about Luli’s deceased infant brother, though it does beef up the plot a bit, is told in a manner so childlike that it undercuts its own potential dramatic heft. Luli may have drawings of gunslingers and princesses on her wall, but the tough little girl act does not fully play out. (Martini would have done well to inject a little more true grit into his protagonist.)
Hick has a tragic ending that comes as a real surprise, but it’s also a surprise that makes very little sense beyond perhaps being a product of a film wrapped up far too neatly. By the end credits, the steady flow of Bob Dylan throughout the film has done as much—if not more—to salvage Hick as its story. That’s probably not what Martini (or writer Portes) had in mind when in bringing this book to the screen.
Director: Derick Martini
Writer: Andrea Portes
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Blake Lively, Eddie Redmayne
Release Date: May 11, 2012