While bored housewives sleep around, an outsider who mows lawns quietly observes the infidelities and hypocrisies in this overly privileged society and forges a friendship with a ten-year-old daughter of one of the familie... more »s.
"This movie is an endearing tale of two square pegs in a round hole world. Devon, played by Mischa Barton, is a ten-year-old girl who has recently moved with her mother (Kathleen Quinlan) and father (Christopher McDonald) into an upscale, gated community with large houses and even larger lawns. Devon isn't really interested in her peers, as "they smell like TV and talk too fast" so she tends to keep to herself, creating her own little worlds and stories, one, in particular that involves a witch named Baba Yaga and a young girl, presumably in reference to herself. Trent (Sam Rockwell) is an early twenty something man who makes his living mowing lawns in the affluent community that Devon and her family reside. Being that Trent is from 'the wrong side of the tracks', we get a sense that while it's acceptable for him to be in the enclosed community to do his work, once he's finished, he should collect his pay and be gone. This is exemplified by the security officer (Bruce McGill) telling Trent that if he plans to be in the neighborhood past 5PM, he'd better clear it with him. I think this also shows an underlying sense of paranoia within the exclusive community towards outsiders.
The meeting of Devon and Trent occurs one day while Devon is attempting (hardly) to sell cookies for some sort of campfire girls' organization. Seems she is doing it more to appease her upwardly mobile conscious father than anything else, and she decides to venture outside of the gated community to see what lies beyond the walls. She comes across a ramshackle mobile home, finds no one home, and ventures inside. Just so happens this is where Trent lives, and he returns to find Devon inside his home. He doesn't become angry, probably because he's got little or nothing worth stealing, but seems annoyed at this small intruder, as he tells her this is private property, and he "ain't interested in buying no cookies". Devon leaves, but seems to have taken an interest in Trent. She returns the next day, where she spies Trent and Pam (Angie Harmon) in a compromising position through a window of the trailer home. Pam, a resident of the same community as Devon, appears to be just some rich girl getting her jollies with the local help, and this is confirmed later. Trent, seeming to understand the extent of their relationship, makes some comments about wanting to meet her family, to which Pam says "Yeah, right". Trent doesn't seem too put out by this, but then I probably wouldn't either as Angie Harmon is a fabulous babe. What this does show, in my opinion, is yet another way the elitist class of the upscale community uses Trent for there own purposes, mowing lawns, sexual forays, or just a target for their deriding remarks. After Pam leaves, Devon and Trent talk about various things, and find that they have something in common in that they have both had near death experiences.
Trent, a little puzzled at why this girl has taken an interest in him, sees that she's harmless but understands that people would most likely misinterpret their relationship, and tells Devon that they can be friends, but it has to be secret. One day, while Trent is mowing a lawn across the street from Devon's house, Devon brings him some water, against her mother's wishes. Trent gives Devon a turtle, which he rescued by not running over with his mower, or as Trent put it, "turning into spaghetti". Devon's mother, not aware of their friendship, assumes the gift is an implication that Trent wants something from Devon, and his motives are of a sinister nature. Eventually the innocent relationship between Devon and Trent is discovered, and immediately construed as being something that it's not. I can't really blame them too much, as I would probably be a little suspicious of a twenty plus year old man and a 10-year-old girl spending a lot of time together. Devon actually brings it to light, after an unfortunate incident with a dog. This leads to a violent confrontation outside Trent's home, and an unusual ending that was very unanticipated but ties in nicely with elements of the story. The ending countered very nicely the sense of pathos I developed as their friendship flourished, knowing that it would end badly. There are many scenes I didn't go into, providing a richer depth of the main characters, fleshing them out quite nicely.
One thing I found quite interesting was the way the community members were so quick to think the worst of Trent, and in the end, labeling him a monster, yet, we see that the true monster lies within themselves, in their infidelities, lies, contempt of those that are different, the sense of superiority that sometimes comes from wealth and power, and the perverse pleasure received by the subtle and not so subtle humiliation of those not in the same social class. The wide screen presentation is very nice, along with the audio, and the special features include trailers and filmographies of the director and some of the stars.
Ignore the cover art on the DVD case, as it alludes to some kind of sexual encounter between the characters shown, which never happens. I'm assuming this was done in an effort to drawn people in, as sex sells, but, if that's your looking for, then you will probably be disappointed. If your bag is an excellent little movie with interesting characters, good direction, a smidgen of humor, a dash of fantasy, and a rewarding ending, then look no further."
GRASS ISN'T ALWAYS GREENER
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 08/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"LAWN DOGS is a surprisingly original and exceptionally well done independent film. Mischa Barton as Devon is amazing. Her face is pliable and ultra expressive, and even though she's the strangest little 10 year old captured on film, her adult mannerisms and dialogue show us a little girl who has been treated like a China doll by her parents; she's had a rough life and heart problems, which she explains with a dippety dit, etc. She wants to show that she is still a person and quite capable of doing the things her parents are trying to spare her from. Sam Rockwell is equally effective as the "poor white trash" who mows the rich people's lawns, a put upon young man, surprised at his friendship with this odd little girl. When watching the film, though, watch the subtle portraits that are painted: when Devon wants to give Trent a glass of water, she reaches for one of the better glasses whereupon her mother tells her there's a glass for him under the sink---when Trent takes Devon to meet his parents, the mother offers them iced tea--in her best glasses; when Trent interrupts a barbecue at Devon's house, daddy offers him a couple hot dogs while the rest of the guests are eating steak and baked potatoes; when the community's fancy lantern shades are being stolen, they blame Trent, when it's really the nasty little boy who's doing this; when CDs are stolen from the golden boys' car, it's Trent who is blamed, when again, it's our little cowboy/indian/monster. The supporting performances are very good: Kathleen Quinlan, as Devon's mom, who is messing around with one of the golden boys; Christopher McDonald as her dad, lost in the political workings of the development; Eric Mabius as one of the golden boys obviously interested in Rockwell's body as well. There's no real dramatic big scenes and it's a leisurely film, but Barton and Rockwell are remarkable and the movie has a sense of realism to counteract the fantasy elements."
K. Gittins | CA USA | 08/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Enough people have generally explained the plot, so I will not. Suffice it to say this is Mischa's best movie, and perhaps the best of any actors early performance. Unfortunately, her subsequent major roles are hit-and-miss - "Skipped Parts" being a hit, and "Lost and Delirious" is to be avoided at all costs. Sam Rockwell was also excellent as "Trent", the friend of Mischa's character ("Devon").
Elsewhere I read the one negative review of this movie by someone who seemed upset over nudity and child pornography. The fact that Mischa is topless for a few seconds (and shot from across the street, at night, and about 2 inches tall on my TV) does not quite fit the category of child pornography, I do not think, unless you are predisposed that way and really, really hard up.
This is a story about a mis-matched friendship, and all the prejudices that attracts, plain and simple. Great dialog, too.
Also, ignore the DVD cover - it has nothing to do with the movie. Why the mother takes up half the cover is a mystery - she is a minor character. The picture of the shirtless man is, I think, from the photo of his high-diving award, and the image of Devon and Trent on the truck actually takes place on a river bank, not on a lawn. I suppose it is Hollywood's influence creeping in - fortunately it does not affect the movie.
sophist_007 | California | 10/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film should be mandatory for all parents and even some children. The film reminds us as a society how hypocritical we have become. We have become so afraid of the stranger hurting our children that we are now the ones administering the pain. Parents impose their morality on their children when in fact they have none themselves. This film attempts to empower the female adolescent by making her experiences worthy and important. See for yourselves the hypocrisy. One kind of relationship, obviously destructive, is approved of because of class; while another is discouraged because of the same reason. Nobody, unless perverted themselves, can find fault with the friendship/relationship between the two lead actors. Wonderful film. Buy it. 10 toes up!"
Top of its class
Jacob Lewis | Boston, MA | 01/04/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"LAWN DOGS is an independent film, and therefore, unfortunately did not gather the huge audiences that mainstream films tend to do more easily, or the ever-so-infrequent indie film. However, for those who have seen it, they may tell you just how deserving of acclaim this gem of a film is. The best part about the film is how it tells an unusual story in such a simple and straightforward way, leaving its many interpretations up to the viewer. Besides its terrific acting/directing, the script quenches the minds of the moviegoer and presents them with a totally new and fresh idea. For those of you who are willing to ride, LAWN DOGS will not be a disappointment."