Thursday, September 18, 2014

Film Review: Mean Creek (2004)

Mean Creek (Review)
United States/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it has a deep and resonating contemplative value."

After becoming tired of arrogant and troubled bully George (Josh Peck), a group of friends plan their payback...

Mean Creek is a very simple yet effective story. The story follows this group of friends as they plan to get their vengeance during a boating trip -- it particularly follows bullied Sam (Rory Culkin) and his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan), although others participate. Anyway, their plan goes too far and the friends have to deal with the devastating aftermath. The story loses some momentum after climax -- it really starts to adopt those long "art house" shots, which unnecessarily lengthens some scenes. However, I think the ending is great; it gives just enough to satisfy, and more than enough to leave you thinking.

That's really the best part of the film, in my opinion: it has a deep and resonating contemplative value. The story is simple, but the characters are deep and complex; these characters feel like actual people, which creates a more emotional aspect, as well, a very deep emotional connection. It's like one of those moments where you see yourself in one of the characters. The conflict is devastating and complex; should I really empathize with a bully? Did he get what was coming? Is it fate? Mean Creek is one of those films that left my mind running -- it left me questioning myself.

It's truly a powerful drama. You can love it for its contemplative value, or its great tension and emotional story; I think the latter should appeal to most audiences, this film has a nerve-shredding buildup. The only issue I had with the film was the loss of momentum after the climax. It's still a great third act, but it's pacing seemed off. It has the type of scenes where dead silence amongst the characters take over and we see long shots of the characters faces and the scenery. These are effective as we get to see what the characters are feeling, but I felt like they dragged on for too long. Again, it's not a major issue, but it's noticeable and worth noting -- especially for those who dislike arthouse.

The acting is superb from the entire cast -- they are the reason for this human experience. Scott Mechlowicz is fantastic, a very strong and versatile performance. Josh Peck is particularly impressive; I think he's very well casted, and he has a lot of conviction behind this performance. The film looks beautiful; the cinematography really caught my eye. The music is very effective and blends very well with the film; sometimes it looks and sounds more like a music video, though. Writer and director Jacob Aaron Estes does very well in crafting the characters, building up the climax, and deliver an overall haunting experience; it does suffer from some pacing issues, though.

Overall, Mean Creek is a fantastic drama. It's a film about the bully and the bullied without ever feeling one-sided; it's all-around empathetic, you can't help but feel during this experience. If you like films with great tension and a genuine conflict, as well as films with that can make you think, Mean Creek is for you.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, some brief nudity.

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