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Fierce People is a vile movie about rich people behaving badly. And poor people, for that matter. In fact, nearly everyone with a pulse in this ugly, mean-spirited picture acts in a way that doesn't warrant any pats on the back or nods of approval.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The movie could have worked as a depraved look at human nature, if only the characters were the slightest bit interesting. Since that’s not the case, and Fierce People is equal parts dreary and grating, there’s really nothing here worth exploring. Move along, folks.
Set in the early 1980s, Fierce People is told from the perspective of 15-year-old Finn (Anton Yelchin), a poofy-haired New Yorker who is anxious to spend the summer with his estranged, tribe-studying father in South America. His plans are derailed, however, when his druggie, masseuse mother Liz (Diane Lane) slips up, again, and inadvertently gets Finn arrested. Deciding that it’s time for a change of pace and to perhaps say nope to dope, she brings her son to the fancy home of a billionaire client, Osbourne (Donald Sutherland).
Not a bad way to spend the summer, in theory. But as Finn points out early in the movie, and continues to repeat ad nauseam, these people act pretty much like they’re in a tribe themselves, leading him to turn his summer detour into an anthropological study. If you’ve seen the Ashley Judd disaster Someone Like You, which compares romantic relationships with wild animals, you’ll know that this storytelling device is more than a little tiresome.
Even more tiresome are the eyebrow-raising, arbitrary things that take place in Dirk Wittenborn’s absurd script, based on his book. Finn starts dating Osbourne’s granddaughter Maya (Kristen Stewart) after getting maimed by a deer trap--a lovely way to meet a romantic prospect. When they hang out with her yuppie brother Bryce (Chris Evans) to watch one of his dad’s tribal documentaries, it turns into a dance where everyone chants “fuck and kill!” followed by, naturally, some making out. Finn and his lady get in the mood by smearing paint all over each other’s bodies--it’s just that kind of movie.
Then there’s the scene where Osbourne drops trow to expose an eerie secret, and debunk the rumors of him sleeping with houseguest Liz. And, as the cherry on top, an instance where a male character goes for a late-night stroll in the woods and winds up being flung on the ground and raped anally. Yeah, charming stuff.
Fierce People, which sat on the shelf for two years, is the latest bungled directorial effort by actor Griffin Dunne, whose previous features include Practical Magic and Addicted To Love; perhaps it’s time for a permanent hiatus from behind-the-camera activities. The actors do their best with what they’re given, which isn’t much, but they seem to catch on to the fact that they’d be better off hitchhiking to another movie set. Especially Diane Lane, who at first seems to have a juicy role, until any traces of her personality are written out after getting sober.
This movie is so tonally confused, so artificially dramatic in a Lifetime TV kind of way, so painfully inept that it’s practically begging to be put out of its misery. Or maybe that’s just us.