DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: SUNDANCE 2011: Little Birds

Tuesday 25 January 2011

SUNDANCE 2011: Little Birds

Little Birds (2011) dir. Elgin James
Starring: Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Leslie Mann, Kate Bosworth, Neil McDonough, JR Bourne


By Alan Bacchus

Lily (Juno Temple) and Alison (Kay Panabaker) are besties, but living in a rundown Salton Sea town with nothing to do except ride bicycles around town, argue with their parents and in general, sulk. It’s another heavy coming of age teen story about runaways jumping into the deep end of life.

As the title suggests little birds will learn to fly and together Lily and Ali throw caution in the wind, steal step daddy’s truck and drive to LA to live it up with a group of badass skater punks. As the adventurous one, Lily clings onto the minute affections of her new boyfriend Jesse. Ali doesn’t even want to be there, sulks, but does go along for the ride. The hothead of the bunch, David, pressures the gals to ‘get down’ - that is engage in petty crime for kicks.

At first it’s innocent fun for the girls, but when David’s schemes become dangerous, illegal and potentially fatal, the girls must make life-changing decisions.

Part road movie, part sexual awakening melodrama, director Elgin James, wastes two lovely and spry lead actresses by infusing their characters with a dull, glum outlet on life. The opening act in the Salton is especially depressing, and even when they leave the city we never really believe they’re enjoying their adventure away. If James disarmed us letting both girls revel in their freedom, the third act turn to the dark would be more effective. But from the outset the skater gang is bad news, and the danger stays with them the entire picture.

The fine Canadian actor JR Bourne shows up at the end for intense and violent confrontation. It’s a well directed scene, but as mentioned, unfortunately it comes as no surprise.

James shows a good eye through the camera, capturing much of the action in Malick-like magic hour. His music selections, in addition to his own original music composed by himself, is terrific and adroitly expresses the girls' moodiness. Ultimately, Little Birds lacks both the aesthetic and narrative freshness, and as such fails to rise about the glut of heavy first time feature dramas

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