This fine but shocking drama (which Ted Turner paid for and then refused to show on his cable outfits), based on the novel by Dorothy Allison, concerns extensive abuse endured by a girl (Jena Malone) at the hands of her st... more »epfather (Ron Eldard), while her mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) looks the other way. Anjelica Huston made her directorial debut with this film and demonstrates that talent also runs in the family when behind the camera. Difficult to watch but mitigated by Huston's intelligent approach and sense of balance--as well as outstanding performances--this is a significant film best left to the most mature audiences. --Tom Keogh« less
Shannon Y. (kawehilani) from KING GEORGE, VA Reviewed on 10/27/2008...
Words cannot describe how heartbreaking and heartwrenching this story is. It really touches the heart. I was outraged by lots of part of this movie. I really did enjoy it though.
3 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
AN OUTSTANDING FILM ON AN IMPORTANT SUBJECT
Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 06/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anjelica Huston's directorial debut is a stunning one. This film, based with loving care on Dorothy Allison's fine novel by screenwriter Anne Meredith, tells the story of a pre-teen girl growing up under horrific family surroundings in the 1950s American South.Bone Boatwright, played with astounding sensitivity and guts by young actor Jena Malone, is subjected to unconscionable brutality and sexual abuse by her stapfather. Her mother, portrayed here by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is in deep denial of what is happening to her child, unable or unwilling to see what is occuring under her roof -- partly afraid of losing her husband, partly due to psychological trauma she most likely received when she was a child. This pattern of behavior is usually circular in nature -- victims many times become perpetrators or enablers when they become adults. Only intensive counseling and a deep determination on the part of the survivor can break this horrible chain.Jena Malone turns in the performance of a lifetime -- and from one so young! If she can do this level of work at this age, what will she be capable of as her career continues? The entire cast is well-chosen -- this was a project about which they obviously cared very deeply. The performances they give here attest to that.Meredith's screenplay is excellent -- very true to Allison's novel. Some parts were necessarily left out for considerations of film length -- the important thing is that Meredith was intelligent and respectful enough of Allison's work that she wisely chose not to add any elements on her own. Too many screenwriters make that mistake -- it's refreshing to see such a quality screenplay for such an important work as this.Anjelica Huston must have been extremely moved by Allison's novel (an amazing book -- check it out) to have taken on a project such as this, one that she most likely knew would not be a box office smash. She shows great sensitivity to the material here -- there are some scenes that are necessarily brutal in nature, and they are filmed with both truth and dignity. This is an ugly story -- thank God she chose not to show it through rose-colored glasses. The more fine films on this subject are seen, the greater our chances as a people of understanding this shameful problem in our society. The more it is discussed and brought into the light of day, the fewer places there will remain for the perpetrators to hide. Those who don't believe things like this still occur are fooling themselves -- statistics show that over 70% of children in America are sexually abused in some degree. Think about that the next time you pass a school or a playground full of children, who have the right to be leading lives untouched by these predators.I've read that Ted Turner originally commissioned this film, but when it was done refused to show it on his cable network. Too bad he lacked the courage to do the right thing -- and kudos to Showtime for stepping up to the plate and taking over. This is an outstanding film on a heartbreaking but vital topic -- and one that should be seen by more people. Heartfelt thanks to Anjelica Huston, and to everyone involved in bringing this wonderful novel to the screen."
A story that will haunt you and rob you of smiles
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 03/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1996 Showtime film is set in rural South Carolina in the 1950s. It stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as a young unwed mother whose loves her young daughter, played by Jena Malone, but yet is incapable from protecting her from an abusive stepfather, played by Ron Eldard. Directed by Anjelica Huston, it brought out the best of all the actors and kept me glued to the screen in spite of the depressing story. Over and over again, we witness the senseless physical abuse by the father, and the young girl's stoic acceptance of it all. It was good that there were enough aunts and uncles in her extended loving family to help out, but her life is a history of short reprieves with various aunts and uncles, only to be picked up by her mother and brought back again to her house of torture. Yes, this is fiction, but we all know that these things exist. The director was wise though to also develop the characters of the mother and stepfather; we understand who they are and how they got that way, even as we despise what they are doing. The stepfather is out of control and the mother cannot bring herself to leave him, but it is the young girl who must suffer the most. It's a haunting story and, like life itself, there are no easy answers."
Almost as Good as the Book It's Based On
RDU | Knoxville, TN United States | 05/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is based on a semi-autobiographical novel, "Bastard Out of Carolina," written by the famous feminist,lesbian author, Dorothy Allison. Analogous to the book it is based on, this film is a genuinely poignant and disquieting piece of art that was too shocking to be aired as originally planned on TNT. More importantly, the director (Anjelica Houston)does a stellar job of portraying the main events and characters in relation to the actual occurrences described in the novel. Author Dorothy Allison claims that through writing the novel "Bastard," she was able to gain perspective on some of the most horrific events of her childhood.
As a whole, the movie chronicles the life of an illegitimate young girl named Bone, who is born into a close-knit, yet extremely impoverished South Carolina family known as the Boatwrights. Naturally, the character Bone is meant to represent the author as she recounts various memories of her childhood.
Bone's life begins well enough- -she grows up amongst a loving single mother named Anney, a younger half-sister (Reese), and many drunken, flamboyant aunts and uncles. However, Bone's life takes a turn for the worse when her mother marries a man named Glen, whom Bone is later forced to call "Daddy Glen."
In the novel, Glen is a victim of verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of his father and two older, financially successful brothers. While his full motivations are never explicitly stated, Glen begins to use Bone as a scapegoat for his failures as a provider and as a husband. Shortly after marrying Bone's mother, Glen begins to physically and sexually abuse Bone. As is common amongst rape and/or incest victims, Bone is too ashamed to tell her mother or any of her other family members what is happening. Not to mention the fact that Bone comes to blame herself for Glen's behavior.
Although there are many warning signs, Bone's mother either refuses to acknowledge her husband's misconduct, or she is simply unaware of what is going on. Nevertheless, at the end of the film, Bone's mother is forced to admit the truth when she finds Glen in the act of sexually assaulting her daughter.
What's more, Bone's mother has to choose between her daughter and the man she loves. It is a fact-based, and heartwrenching tale of classism, sexism, and most of all- -childhood abuse. Despite the fact that this film is definitely not a "Cinderella" story, it is still a tale that desperately needs to be told."
An honest and compelling look at child abuse
BostonMama | Boston, MA | 04/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of all the movie and television pieces depicting child abuse that I have ever seen, this movie provides the most honest view of child abuse, and it does so through the haunting eyes of the child herself, expertly played by Jena Malone. Other movies or television shows merely allude to the horrific details of child abuse, cutting away at the very moments the worst of the crimes take place, leaving the details to the "imagination" of the viewer, or alternatively, allowing the viewer to escape them. That a number of reviewers think this movie too graphic or stomach-turning is precisely the POINT of the movie. What happens to Bone makes you want to avert your eye, look the other way . . . leave the room. You care about her, but you just don't want to KNOW so intimately what has happened to make her eyes so chillingly pained. One of the worst realities of child molestation, rape and abuse is that, very often, adults around the child are aware of the situation, but choose to look away, unable to deal with what has happened in their own families. They may confront the abuser to get him to stop, but in the end, they may not step in and take final steps, public steps, to stop the abuse. Bone's family members-- from her pathetic mother to her comparably strong aunts and uncles -- are all aware of what has happened to Bone. Her uncles beat her stepfather badly after learning of the abuse, but in the end, not a single family member makes the necessary reports to physicians and police officers, even when directly asked about the abuse by authorities. While the other family members eventually seem to loathe the mother as much as the viewer does, they continue to make excuses for her, as family members in abusive families sometimes do. No one helps Bone, because in the end, it is the very stomach-wrenching, horrible things that have happened to her that they cannot face. That Ted Turner refused to air this movie tells us two things: (1) He didn't get it; and (2) He's a coward. Jena Malone deserved an Oscar for this performance. She is an incredibly talented young actress."
Good but sad
rocker81 | Dallas GA | 04/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A great, but also sad movie... It's a movie about a poor southern girl that doesn't have a so happy childhood. Her mother has problems choosing men and marries up with a man that ends up being the worst of all. He sexually abuses Bone (Played by Jena Malone) for a long period of time. Some out of frustration over his failure as a father, a husband, and a man that can't live up to his own fathers expectations... But mostly do to his sick and twisted state of mind.
It's a very depressing movie that doesn't really sugarcoat anything... The acting is OSCAR worthy and it's a well shot movie other than at times being alittle to stereotypical of the southern family. It's not really meant to watch over and over again.. Watching it once should be enough for most."