This newest review for A Timely Blogathon comes from the very lovely Emma of emmakwall (knows it all). Emma runs one of my favourite blogs, and writes about film, music, and other bits and bobs including fun posts on her travels. Emma chose to review Mean Creek (2004); a film I hadn’t heard of before, but now am quite interested in! Thanks Emma for participating!
Mean Creek (2004)
Firstly, thanks very much to Anna and Rob for coming up with and hosting such a great blogathon idea – which is to review any movie with a duration of 90 minutes or less. This idea appealed to me so much! I’m the worst for sitting through films, mainly because I’m such a fidget. Sometimes I’m sat behind someone in the cinema who DOES NOT MOVE and I don’t get how they do it. I can’t sit for five minutes without wanting to shift my arse (I’m moving around as I type this) and a long film duration can put me off going to the cinema entirely. I mean with all the Kevin Bacon adverts and ‘suitable for this feature’ film trailers, I’d have to pitch a tent and put my phone on my charge just to get through it all.
So there were a number of films I thought about but I kept coming back to Mean Creek, a 2004 indie film that demonstrates perfectly how a short, regular-joe, small budget movie can be just as thought-provoking and moving as something of the three hour variety. I mean let’s be honest, longer films tend to me more serious don’t they. You’re not going to see something like Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero go on for any length of time (less narrative and Oscar winning monologue you see), but Mean Creek is a film that has a story and an impact – and it’s still only 90 minutes (interestingly that’s nine minutes less than Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero).
Some films are so good or memorable that I can still recall the first time I saw them. To you this may not be impressive but for someone like me – who can’t always remember if I “had that conversation in real life or was it a dream?” – it’s pretty good going.
Mean Creek is one of those films. It was in the days before Netflix and I’d simply bought it on DVD because it looked interesting. I watched it one afternoon and watched it straight again the next day with my sister, who I forced to sit next to me and Enjoy This As Much As I Did (through gritted teeth).
It’s basically about a group of friends who are fed up with being beat-up and picked on by their neighbourhood bully George (Josh Peck) and decide to take revenge with a rather callous but seemingly harmless prank. But things rarely run smoothly in movie land and here comes ‘The But’ in the shape of local bad boy Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) who decides to tag along. Things begin to spiral out of control and their harmless prank on a bully turns into something far darker, making it a day none of them will ever forget.
And that’s pretty much it. But watching the story unfold and learning about the characters and their respective outlooks is compelling. Rory Culkin (who somehow is only three years younger than me?) plays main character Sam, a regular kid who wants to cop off with best friend Millie and at the other end of the spectrum is his brother’s bad boy pal Marty – who you straight away know is from the wrong side of the tracks. He has a chain on his jeans man! AND ripped the sleeves off his shirt.
But their personalities are important to the plot. The revenge is first dreamt up because George is a bully – but he’s also overweight, friendless and shows deep insecurity. We also learn how Marty’s father has commit suicide and how Marty is belittled and threatened constantly by his trashy older brother –these things are all significant to the story because they make the basis of the kids morals and subsequent actions.
Mean Creek is an indie film and I know LOADS of films are independent but like, what does that even mean? That it wasn’t made in Hollywood or given a complimentary back rub by the Weinstein brothers? Because all I know is some films feel a lot more indie than others – and Mean Creek is one of them. Brace yourself now for some of Emma’s Famous Technical Talk…
The hazy summer colours, the long camera shots and imagery. The ‘smart’ script – basically the way the kids talk like they’re in their 40s, not high school (there’s no narrator sadly but they so could have gotten away with it). The beautiful, sad score courtesy of Tomandandy and the long hot summer that seems to go on forever type vibes – pretty much everything about Mean Creek screams “I’m an indie movie and if you love Anchor Man you might want to avoid me”.
It may sound borderline pretentious but I’m the least la-di-da person when it comes to film and I really liked it. And surely everyone by now knows what I’m like and my love for Face Off and reality TV and lots of other naff things?
Anyway, I recommend this film. And who wouldn’t want to follow the recommendation of someone who likes lots of naff things. But being serious (for once) Mean Creek is very good. It’s thought-provoking, shocking and at times quite sad – though there’s moments of real fun too, like the type of mucking around you only truly experience when you’re young and with The Most Important Friends you’ll ever have – or so it feels at the time. It isn’t an entirely depressing film at all, it’s just an interesting, rather tragic story that throws up emotion, moral questioning and that very complicated business we can all relate to of being human.