A Few Words About A few words about... Mean Creek

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Jan 12, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Mean Creek is a film which I knew very little about.

    I had heard that it had an aura of Tim Hunter's brilliant River's Edge, a touch of Deliverance, and a nod to Lord of the Flies.

    I was aware that there had been a shared award for "Special Distinction" at this year's Independent Spirit Awards, to Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelly, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck and Carly Schroeder as an ensemble cast. The Spirit Awards usually get things right.

    Mean Creek is a little gem of a film, which quickly spans its 89 minute length. This is a film about a middle school bully and a plan concocted to deal with him, which goes horribly out of control.

    The cast ranged in age during production from about 12 (Carly Schroeder) to the "eldest," Scott Mechlowicz at about 22. The others all fell into a 17ish range. There are no "seasoned" performers here.

    And this is what makes the film even more special. Each actor is placed on an emotional roller coaster. Each shows that they are more than up to the tasks appointed them. They play their roles with perfect rhythm and pace, allowing their characters to develop and be exposed, layer by layer.

    Mechlowicz and Peck are brilliant as the individuals who set the events in motion, while Schroeder leaves one wondering where her talents are going to take her as she "matures" into her teens.

    And then there is Jacob Estes, the film's first time screen writer and director. Keep an eye on him.

    Highly recommended.
     
  2. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    I just watched this last night and was utterly blown away. The entire cast, from the kid that played George to the girl that played Millie, the entire cast acted well beyond their years. The musical score and cinematography (especially during the creek scenes) was absolutely amazing!! In some of the scenes in the second half of the movie (I dont want to spoil anything), she acted with a level of maturity and convincingness (is that a word) that left me in disbelief that this is a relative newcomer, and a child actress.

    I'm not a film critic, so I can't go on some elaborate dissertation of why this is such a great film, but check out the comments on imdb in the user reviews section and you'll see the amount of praise this film has.

    Highly recommended!!!
     
  3. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    I am disappointed no one has had any comments or interest into this thread. This really is a great movie, and I hope it gets enough exposure that prompts more people to see this film.
     
  4. Stephen Brooks

    Stephen Brooks Second Unit

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    I watched this last night. I feel the acting talents involved elevated this film above its storyline, which seemed a little familiar to me.

    I often wonder how real people would behave in situations like this. A lot of movies seem to rely on the characters assuming they would all do hard prison time for something that was obviously just a terrible accident. How about a twist where they all decide to do the right thing right away, and then explore how that decision affects the rest of their lives?
     
  5. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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    I saw this theatrically, and thought it was quite good. I rather wish I hadn't seen the very revealing trailer (so many times!) before the film opened, as I'd have liked to have gone in "clean" without the certain knowledge of what was forthcoming. Excellent performances -- I think Rory Culkin and his brothers are vastly underrated (and he and Kieran always have such an aura of sadness about them).
     
  6. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

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    I actually have a review copy comming my way next week for this film. I saw the trailer today and it certainly caught my attention. After hearing the flattering remarks from the distinguished panel here, I can't wait to get my hands on it.
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Mean Creek is unfortunately a film lacking star power, which means that it falls into the category of arthouse product.

    The total gross was just over $600,000, which equates to the Perrier budget for most A feature junkets.

    This is a pity, as the public is missing a great film. Bugeted at around $500k, it might have chance of going into the black with some decent DVD and cable sales.

    As an aside, the cast/crew commentaries are absolutely charming with no pomposity or ego.

    I would urge HTFers to support this superbly crafted and beautifully acted little film. Below, I've selected a few critical quotes:


    "The final act of the film is extraordinary. How unusual it is to see kids this age in the movies seriously debating moral rights and wrongs and considering the consequences of their actions. "Mean Creek" makes us realize how many films, not just those about teenagers but particularly the one-dimensional revenge-driven adult dramas, think the defeat of the villain solves everything. Such films have a simplistic playground morality: The bully is bad, we will destroy him, and our problems will be over. They don't pause to consider the effects of revenge -- not on the bully, but on themselves." - Roger Ebert, Chigaco Sun-Times

    "With Mean Creek, Estes has provided a keenly-honed view of human psychology. We would all like to think we would do "the right thing" in the face of a tragedy, but how many of us really know? Mean Creek presents the dilemma in a manner to which every member of the audience can relate. Each of the characters reacts differently, and we're never left wondering about the reasons underpinning the reaction. By entering such fertile, intellectually stimulating and psychologically rich territory, Estes provides us with a freshman feature that is far beyond the generic coming-of-age tale Mean Creek initially seems to be." - James Berardinelli - Reel Views

    "The beauty of the movie is not how it anticipates tragedy, but how it shows the teens, each with a distinct (if sometimes alarming) sense of self, working out the direction their life will take as the rowboat heads downriver." Jami Bernard - NY Daily News

    and finally...

    "Culkin and company deliver some of the freshest performances of the year, inhabiting their small-town personas with unusual grace and susceptibility. From the sting of isolation to the ills rained down by their elders, these kids exude layers of pent-up disquietude. Facing up to their moral dilemma is uncomfortably reminiscent of the sinister and unforgettable Lord of the Flies.

    Hurtful, haunting and worth a look. - Jeanne Aufmuth - Palo Alto Online


    RAH
     
  8. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    With this DVD coming out this week, hopefully moving this thread up to the top will generate a little more interest in this film.
     
  9. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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    Definitely an underrated gem.

    I don't think the average movie-viewer would like this film. It's not formulatic or riddled with cliches, and there aren't any explosions, CGI or fart jokes.

    It's best that it didn't have a star in it - as the studio's would have their grubby hands all over it trying to change the movie so that it could seel. Plus by using generally unknown actors - it helps convey that these kids are everyday ordinary kids, and you aren't distracted by the star factor.
     
  10. Travis W.

    Travis W. Second Unit

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    I saw this film when it came to town (it only lasted a little over a week) and was very surprised. A great film, I've recommended it to many friends and they all seem to like it, if not more than me.
     
  11. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I had never heard of this film, and hadn't planned to review it. Hearing the buzz from this thread and from elsewhere, I acquired a copy of the disc on my own. It is a tremendous film, and deserves all the praise one can heap upon it. These are the most believable child performances I've seen in a long time.

    I think it bests "River's Edge," which was an extrodinary film, itself. And it puts Larry Clark's "Bully" to shame - proving that a film of this sort mustn't be exploitative to pack a punch.

    I'll be posting a review over the weekend. Better late than never.

    -Scott
     
  12. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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  13. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    A little off-topic from the praise of the film itself on dramatic grounds, but doesn't it look amazing for having been shot in Super-16? I thought it was 35mm from looking at it, and only learned it was S-16 from the commentary on 2nd viewing. HD is gonna have to make some major strides as a shooting format if Kodak is making even their 16mm film stocks this clean and vibrant.

    Vincent
     
  14. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    I saw it last week.

    I thought it was good, but not as good as most here. Well made, but the final third, was not believable.

    What happened was basically an accident. He fell out of the boat. Why cover it up and make it worse?


    Well, I also had problems with the first third.

    Why would all these older kids agree to gang up on a kid so much younger than them?


    It wasn't a bad film, and there were some parts that were quite good (such as following the home life of the bully, to try to show why he is like that). But, I just can't share the enthusiasm for it.
     
  15. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    OK, you've convinced me...I pushed it to the top of my Netflix queue!
     
  16. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    To answer both of John's questions:

    Question 1: The answer is THEY'RE KIDS. They panicked. Adults often make incredibly bad choices in times of stress, why is it even remotely unbelievable that these kids would panic and make a bad choice when presented with a situation like the one in MEAN CREEK?

    Question 2: George is NOT much younger than the older kids. Remember, they say he's been left back many times, and at one point George has some dialogue with Clyde where he says something like, "Remember when you were in fifth grade and I was in fourth?", so at the very most, George is one year younger than the three older kids, and is a few years older than Sam.

    I think it's entirely believable in such a case that an older brother would try and get his younger brother's back against a kid who's close to the older bro's age but a few years older (and much bigger) than the younger bro.


    Vincent
     
  17. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

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    Mean Creek was effective because of the kids panicing, and because of the malicious feelings towards George. The scenerio should hit very close to home for all of us that have gone through adolesence, in that our methods of dealing with conflict generally aren't the most prudent.

    One can only hope that the actors in this film enjoy lush film careers from this point on, as they certainly deserve it.

    For what it's worth, I just reviewed the film over at DVDAnswers.com, if you feel like reading more of my ramblings, go check it out. [​IMG]
     
  18. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    Regarding the actors, I didn't even realize that Mechlowicz was the lead from EUROTRIP until I checked the IMDB. He's really terrific in MEAN CREEK and shows a heck of a lot of range.

    Vincent
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Bryan's review really catches the essence of this film.

    His comments are dead on.

    RAH
     
  20. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    Bryan's review is indeed very good but he makes one minor technical mistake when he's discussing the image quality- MEAN CREEK was shot in the Super-16mm format, not 35mm. That probably explains some of the small image anomolies he saw, but still, I think the DVD looks FANTASTIC for a film of 16mm origin. I didn't even realize it was Super-16 myself until I listened to the commentary.

    Oh, and we may also recognize Trevor Morgan as Eric from JURASSIC PARK III :)

    And Bryan's comment re: Mechlowizc being reminiscent of a young Brad Pitt (in a good way) was dead on. He's not quite as cover-boy "pretty" as Brad, but his vocal patterns remind of Brad, and he reminds me of Brad when he does more "edgy" work. I think he's really gonna be a big star.

    Vincent
     

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