Only-A-Child | 07/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Highly Recommended as an Example of How to Stage and Sequence a Complex Scene.
If you like black comedy, you should enjoy "Confessions of an American Girl". Rena (Jena Malone) is the embodiment of that old cartoon where the guy is sitting on the ground with a noose around his neck and a broken rope in his hand; captioned "some people can't do anything right". Rena lives in a mobile home with her somewhat "strange" family, is suicide challenged, is pregnant by a guy who doesn't want to be seen in public with her, and blames it all on the unfair eight year absence of her loving father, who is in prison for murder. Her dim idealic memories of her father are somewhat biased.
The highway and its exit ramps are metaphors for her life and her desire to end her life. The film is not quite as good as "Ghost World" but has much the same tone and feel.
Alicia Witt plays Rena's half-sister. Because Malone and Witt are arguably the most intelligent actresses in Hollywood, you immediately wonder about the wisdom of casting them as moronic trailer trash. But Malone has a special talent for playing this kind of "slack-jawed" character and Witt's standard sarcastic teen character works fine even in this environment. Their scenes together are the best ones in the film; with their reconciliation scene toward the end especially good.
Brad Renfro does a good job as Rena brother, O-Lon Jones (remember the waitress in Seinfeld's "Bubble Boy" episode) is excellent in a small role and Clifton Collins Jr. is great as Buddy, the prison trustee, who quickly sizes up the situation and sets the forces of change in motion.
While "American Girl" is an above average film, its main scene (the picnic at the prison which actually takes up the majority of the film) pushes it into cinema classic territory. This scene is an example of the way storytelling should be done, and the pacing is absolutely inspired. It is staged perfectly as Buddy orchestrates a sequence of revelations that changes all four visiting family members. Even if you hate the subject of this film it is worth watching just to see how wonderfully they manage this climatic scene. The disasterous visit over, the family leaves the prison with the statement "it went better than it could have".
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
4 stars for a courageous movie!
Laudan Tehrani | Charlotte, NC United States | 03/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At first this movie seemed trite, but less than halfway into it, it became something much more. An honest look at a dysfunctional and insecure girl, her older and just downright mean half sister, her brother John, who is the calmest and simplest character ( with a dark secret ) in the movie. Her hardworking single mother ( played superbly by Michelle Forbes ) and her over the top father sent away to prison for two consecutive life terms for murder.
Jena Malone's character dreams of seeing her father, knowing him and making him proud right at the time that she realizes she is pregnant.
In one day at the annual prison picnic ( do these things actually exist? How scary!! ) the family reunites reluctantly except Rena ( Malone ). What follows therafter are numerous amounts of surprises and several laugh out loud moments. While some of this movie may be funny, this is certainly a more serious film that deals with coming of age, the longing that comes with having an absent father in a young persons life, suicide, depression, and coming to terms with one's reality and not just the dream they want.
I was amazed at how good this movie actually was. The acting by all cast members is really great and the story is not boring, however shocking or disturbing it may be, it is simply real. Possibly someone else's reality which makes it all the more interesting."
A wonderful indie flick.
Meet Ze Leslie | 12/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dysfunctional, Open-Minded, and down right humorous describes "Confessions of an American Girl". Jena Malone (Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Stepmom) shines in this film, just like she always does. Two things that will always go together are Jena Malone & an Indie/Black Comedy. But I'll have to admit some of the best acting in this film was that of Brad Renfro (The Client). He plays a 'closet' homosexual, and the obvious reason he hides it is because of his "tough as nails" prison father.
A lot of the characters in this film are like a lot of people you know & see in real life. And thought most label them as poor, white trash...You discover in "COAG" that they have passionate souls too.
Also, on another note..Clifton Collins, Jr. was one of the best things in this film, and one of the funniest too. So, buy it, rent it..do what you must. It's great!"