September 12, 2011



Derick Martini’s HICK is like a Sundance movie that took the wrong indie-film exit and wound up in Toronto.  For whatever reason, Toronto’s film festival tends to find itself with fewer stories of young people from small towns who come of age on the road, so Hick has a little air of distinction here.

The movie’s other striking quality is the way it slides from a seemingly light tone to a surprising amount of darkness.  We meet Luli (Chloe Moretz, best known as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass), on the eve of her 13th birthday.  It’s the late 70s, and Luli lives in the kind of white trash millieu in Nebraska beloved by indie filmmakers:  her birthday presents include a gun, and her parents (mom is Juliette Lewis, as subtle as ever) are soon drunkenly screaming at each other in the parking lot.  Soon enough, both desert Luli, who sees a TV special on the barely-working set and decides she’ll hitch her way to Vegas.
And so her adventures begin.  Before long, she’s encountered an earnest cowboy who doesn’t like people making fun of his limp (Eddie Redmayne), and a hustler (Blake Lively) who enlists Luli into her plans.  No one, however, is quite who they seem to be.  Luli finds herself exposed to far more of the adult world than she–or we–anticipated.
Martini, who previously directed Lymelife (which did premiere at Sundance and was even acquired for distribution, although it was barely released), is very cunning about the way the adult characters are gradually revealed.  For a long time, we and Luli aren’t sure how much serious trouble she’s in (the answer:  a lot), and that makes the third act reveals quite disturbing, although still wildly melodramatic.  (This can’t be fully appreciated without seeing the movie, but it’s pretty remarkable that in the Q&A after the screening, the co-screenwriter and author of the original novel, Andrea Portes, noted that many of the events in the novel and film are semi-autobiographical.)  
As in Lymelife, Martini is very good with actors (Alec Baldwin and Rory Culkin, two of the leads in Lymelife, return in small roles here).  Moretz, whose specialty in Kick-Ass and Let Me In has been overt menace, here still has strength but is able to channel it into a more age-appropriate innocence.  Redmayne is able to show colors he’s never played on screen before, and Lively gives her first genuinely effective big screen performance.  
Hick isn’t likely to be much more successful than Lymelife was–it’s stuck in a familiar indie-film subgenre, and its quirks make it interesting but not remarkable enough to break out of that box; also, many audiences will find its subject matter distasteful.  Martini remains a filmmaker to watch, though; it can’t be an accident that so many actors give notable performances in front of his camera.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."