TIFF 2011: HICK Review

     September 11, 2011


Walkouts are common at film festivals, especially at press and industry screenings.  Why waste your valuable time watching a movie if something better could be about to start in the next auditorium?  Walkouts tend to occur for one of two reasons: 1) the film is so divisive that it offends the sensibilities of some viewers and they simply can’t continue on.  Those tend to be the good movies, or at least the ones worth seeing through to the end; or 2) the film is such a dull, ill-conceived messed that there’s no end in sight to the tedium.  Hick is latter.  I don’t walkout on movies, but I was so bored with Derick Martini’s wretched coming-of-age tale that I started counting walkouts just to stay awake.

Lily (Chloe Moretz) has just turned thirteen and lives the lifestyle of a hick as imagined by people who have driven through the heartland and occasionally watched a daytime talk show.  If you think I’m exaggerating, in Lily’s house she has a working TV sitting on top of a broken TV.  Apparently Martini and co-writer Andrea Portes (on whose novel the film is based) mistook Jeff Foxworthy jokes as an anthropological study.   But Lily’s a smart girl and a big dreamer who feels trapped by her alcoholic parents and when her mother (Juliette Lewis) splits town with a richer man, Lily takes that as her cue that it’s time to make her escape as well.  Packing the gun she received at her birthday party (which was in a bar!  Oh, those earthy rednecks), Lily starts hitchhiking to the city that never sleeps in the hopes she can find a sugar daddy who  wouldn’t mind going to jail for statutory rape.  On her journey, she comes across psychotic gimp cowboy Eddie (Eddie Redmayne), the freewheeling cokehead Glenda (Blake Lively), and other poorly-written characters.

hick-image Blake Lively, Chloe Moretz

Hick has no idea what it’s doing.  It doesn’t even know when and where it’s set other than small Midwestern towns where everyone has an exaggerated southern drawl.  Characters rave about well-known hospitals and the world’s biggest ball of barbed wire, which would make sense if the movie were set before 1945.  But since Lily can quote Star Wars, the most charitable estimation would set the time no earlier than 1977, and none of the characters are dressed like they live in the 70s, and people dreamt a little bigger than “barbed-wire balls” by then.  It may seem a small thing to pick over, but it’s emblematic of the haphazard construction of everything Hick has to offer.

Watching Martini flail around trying to figure out what kind of story would be entertaining if it weren’t such a chore.  The script tries to craft Lily as some sort of little lost girl who only wants to be told she’s pretty.  It would be tragic if it weren’t cloying and honest if it weren’t so incoherently gross.  The film gropes at whether or not it should make Lily a sexual object and as a result comes off as creepy, like a pathetic old man who wonders if the thirteen-year-old on the bus is giving off a vibe because her mid-riff is exposed.  If Martini wants to make Lily a Lolita-figure, he should sack up and do it (he would fail but at least there would be some conviction to the storytelling).  If he wants to protect this poor, misguided child, then put us on her side.  But do not flirt with the idea that “Hey…maybe this child is asking for it.”

This kind of idiotic characterization leads to preposterous interactions.  The film doesn’t know whether to make Eddie a badboy Lily finds attractive or a complete raving psycho would cause any rational person run in the opposite direction.  I can buy the notion that a self-conscious teenager would be attracted to an attractive, older man who exudes a dangerous personality.  What I cannot buy is when Lily watches Eddie beat a guy to death with a kitchen sink and then they go get ice cream.  Other intense moments: an argument over the term “Oakie” and using a 7-Up when making a 7-and-7.  Those scenes are like a game in an acting class where the participants are challenged to make something completely stupid feel dramatic.  For all of the film’s faults, the cast gives it their all and I tip my hat to them for trying.

I wish Martini at least had the courtesy to be laughably bad if he was going to make his movie such a sickening chore.  Instead he fills it with the wretched indie coming-of-age score the feature the familiar and tired lone acoustic guitar.  That kind of score needed to die ten years ago but I guess hiring one marginally-talented guitarist is cost effective.  What doesn’t come cheap are the licensing rights for the Bob Dylan songs the film uses and wastes.

Maybe Martini made a much smarter film than I’m willing to give him credit for.  Maybe because he thinks hicks are lazy and stupid, he made a lazy and stupid movie.  If that was his intention, then he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.  But the truth is that Hick is a trashy soap opera that could care less about characters, pacing, narrative, or even basic human interaction.  By the end of Hick, I had counted 33 walkouts.  I’m surprised there was anyone left in the theater at all.

Rating: F

For all of our coverage of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, click here. Also, here are links to all of my TIFF 2011 reviews so far:

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  • PatLang

    And these independent releases were ones that he likes and yet he treats them the same way as any other movie. I never listen to his reviews, but this proves that what Goldberg writes is useless.

    • BD

      Ive never read any of this guys review before but i tend to agree with you PatLang, ive read this book, and it was AMAZING!! Great characters, shock value, i love Martinis other work and the cast, so i find it very hard to believe this movie could be bad, let alone as bad as the reviewer believes. IMDb voting has the at 54% of the 400 voters have voted 10/10. So i think this guy may just have bad taste in film.

      • Kyle

        Do you think he’s lying about the massive amount of walkouts as well?

      • Nemo

        ‘IMDb voting has the at 54% of the 400 voters have voted 10/10.’

        How gullible are? Putting aside your borderline retarded counterpoint and ignoring the walkouts too, you still can’t get around the fact that the other reviews released so far pretty much say the same thing: it’s simply a bad movie.

      • John

        54% out of 400 votes is poor. I’m sure you can deduce other meanings from that.

  • Tyler

    @PatLang…are you like a producer on this movie?

  • sginzenh Smith

    I still was not aware from this Review story but because of you, i came to know about this. Moreover, star movie channel is a great for all Hollywood movie.

  • audience

    100% agree with this review. saw the film at TIFF. it was horrible. actors did their best but script and directing were HORRENDOUS. story made ZERO sense. motivations for characters doing anything were unrealistic. what was there was completely predictable. and did i say it made no sense. no one would have acted the way these characters did, said, did not do, etc. can someone out there refund the two hours of my life i wasted watching this so called film? the director should be ashamed of this garbage.

  • audience

    and by the way, while looking up this directors other work, check this out from ace showbiz– http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/w0011416.html

    Director Derick Martini has been slapped with a $5 million lawsuit from his own father in a dispute over the ownership of a New York building. The filmmaker, best known for the Martin Scorsese-produced coming of age comedy “Lymelife”, is accused by his dad Frederick of going behind his back to steal ownership of a Manhattan property he had taken interest in.

    Martini Sr. claims his son forged a copy of the deed, giving him half-ownership of the place, according to the New York Post. The father and son are now set to face off over the building in court.

    Derick is the brother of Steven Martini with whom he co-wrote his directorial debut “Lymelife”. His TV credits, in the meantime, include the Jennifer Lopez-produced television series “South Beach” and a remake of Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon”.

    • simon

      and who fucking care that shit?. asshole

  • Ryan Crockett

    I get the feeling you’ve never spent any time in the small town America that you accuse this film of failing to portray.

    (For those who’re curious, 33 is probably pretty spot on in terms of the amount of people who walked out. I’m not 100% sure as I was watching the film instead of looking at the theater’s aisles, perhaps this reviewer would have enjoyed the film more if he did the same)

  • Ryan

    Record straight. This poor blog critic seems to have had a bad day.

    I disagree with his hick review. Excellent acting. Good story. Well directed. Shocking, funny, sad. It’s not your average film; the filmmakers at the premiere I attended made it clear that the took risks. Which worked for me. And the audience.

    And walkouts of a p and I screening are normal. It’s idiotic to count them. Most press and industry go into those screenings knowing they have to leave early but want to see as much as they can.

    • Rich

      33 walkouts is not normal. And people do not go into screenings already knowing they’re taking off during the middle of a movie….they do that if the movie ends up sucking.

    • John

      Not everyone’s going to hate it, some will think it’s the greatest thing since slice bread, but by your logic every film that critcally panned is “unique” or just misunderstood. “Hick” was going for a realistic AND believable situations – which I think it probably failed by reading the most recent reviews. It seems to me it tried to pull a “Precious” mixed in with “Taxi” but failed greatly.

      • Atendee at TIFF

        What do you know about walk outs at major festivals? I’ve been to so many, and even in the best of films, people rush out after 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. It’s an annoying fact about major festivals, as an audience member you get distracted by industry folks zipping out early or arriving late. I’ve seen it in every screening at every festival I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to many.

      • John

        @ Atendee at TIFF:

        I never mentioned walk outs in my post. But I’ll play along. Walk outs are normal at major movie festivals like you said, but what my previous post was aiming for was that “Hick” is getting crapped on like a pigeon seeing a bright red car. More than likely the film does suck in a major ways.

  • Val

    What is this guy smoking? I saw hick and it was incredible. I find it impossible to believe this blogger, excuse me I mean…critic. Alright, I do mean blogger. Lowlife, bottom feeding blogger seems to bs trying to get attentionto himself by panning a high profile indie film.

    Who pays him for this?

  • Matthew

    I’ve had doubts about Goldberg before. But I think he has wrote several solid reviews this week. He’s been incredibly active. And I think he has done a great job covering the TIFF.

  • The Train!

    Matt G: continuing the proud tradition of being divisive. i can’t figure out why some have selected you as the target of their bile (over any other writer on this site) but i hope you wear with it a certain amount of pride. it’s better to be hated by some than loved by everyone.

  • Bem

    Here’s another Hick review and unfortunately is not good. The acting is fine but that’s it. Maybe there’ll be kinder reviews later. For now it seems people did walk out of the theater and only two critics suffered through it.


  • Audience2

    I have to agree with Matt and others here. I was there for the Premier too. Great acting and cast but, BAAADDDD movie. :S

    FYI Matt, Chloe Moretz character’s name is “Luli” not “Lily”.

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  • Atendee at TIFF

    I have no freaking idea what movie you saw but I read the book. and I was at the premiere. The film IS the book minus some tangential points that probably didn’t translate to the screen. I liked the book and I liked what the filmmakers did with this version of the movie.

    Also, for anyone who cares to do their homework, the story is based on Andrea Portes’ young adult life. The situations are pulled from her reality. I’m not saying it was a pleasant upbringing. It seems kind of crappy, but the way Luli, not Lili by the way, is portrayed by Moretz is astounding.

    I do recall that the novel had a mixed response as well. Some love it, others not so much. But for me, personally, I like the film better than the novel because the actors are all great.

  • D

    Hmm there seems to be a lot of ardent Hick supporters here. Do you have a vested interest in how this movie turns out? If not then why are you all getting so worked up over one review, take it easy.

  • Ron

    lol. Most of these people are probably an aunt, uncle, or cousin of Chloe Moretz.

  • /tv/

    Implying I’m watching it for anything other than sexy Chloe.

  • Miles

    I was not at this year’s TIFF, but I have been to three previously, as well as other major film festivals, and thirty-something walk outs is a little high, but not alarming, especially without understanding the showing time and other details. I’ve been to films that went on to major releases and great box-office success that have had a couple dozen walkouts, so thirty for a film like Hick is nothing surprising.

    I ended up here since I’m a fan of Portes’ novel and have been curious about the movie since I heard it went into production. I’d be shocked if it turned out to be a major box office success based on the novel’s subject matter and style. I can easily understand why some would love it and others would be more “meh” toward it.

    It is a little concerning that the reviewer seems to have an exact number of walkouts, but doesn’t even know the name of the lead character, an error he carried throughout the review. It does make me question his committment to the material if he understands the movie (and certainly not the novel), but I won’t pass final judgment on the film or the reviewer until I see it.

    I real test after TIFF will be to see what type of distribution it receives, or if it suddenly goes straight to video. Unlikley considering those attached to the film.

  • Marko

    I saw Hick at TIFF the other day too, and it was easily – EASILY – the worst movie I’ve seen this year.

    To say that Martini didn’t know whether to sexualize a thirteen year old girl is an understatement. The way the camera dotes on Moretz’s lips, and the costumes she’s paraded around lead me to think Martini has got it bad for Chloe. It’s was unnerving and gross to see the way he exploits her — in what I’m sure she considers her break through as a serious actress.

    Kudos to anyone who lasts past the seven and seven scene. You (like myself) must be a glutton for punishment.

    He was so lost tonally that the audience didn’t know whether to laugh or squirm. Terrible, terrible film with no redeeming qualities.

  • Tammy

    I was at the screening yesterday. My husband like it. I wanted to walk out so badly but was stuck in the middle of the row and didn’t want to disturb the audience but this was a terrible movie. Tedious is exactly the right word to describe it. The dialogue was boring, the characters were beyond predictable and I also could not figure out what year it took place — it tried hard but really was a total mess.

  • gabe

    Wow. I can’t figure out if it was Derick Martini or Andrea Portes who blew you off at some point in your life… but this is beyond vitriolic.

    First, let’s get our facts straight. Shall we?

    The main character is named Luli.

    Not Lily.

    (This is the kind of thing you should probably check before you write a review.)

    Second, the film is based on the critically lauded novel, HICK, which is a courageous, semi-autobiographical novel written by Andrea Portes… who is, by the way, from Nebraska.

    So, if you think that her life story is something out of a Jeff Foxworthy act, I suggest you either see a shrink or try watching better comedy.

    What happened? Did Derick not buy you a drink? Did Andrea blow you off at the CAA party? Why such hatred?

    FYI, I was at that screening and I can tell you this: 33 people did not walk out of that screening. No way.

    And, finally, I’d just like to ask you, dear critic: When, exactly, was the last time you were in Palmyra, Nebraska?

    I’m willing to bet… the answer is never.

  • Matt

    30 walk-outs doesn’t seem that high to me. You should have been at The Killer Inside Me screening. lol.

  • kelly

    I feel like you saw I different film than I did. I mean, I did see it that night, not a press screening. But I really loved it. Especially Eddie Redmayne and Chloe Moretz. Even Blake, who I thought would suck. I know the subject matter is hard, but what I thought was cool was that the film didn’t tell you what it was like THE ACCUSED or THE HANGOVER. It was smart, funny, weird, scary and all the rest of the things I bet the world seems to a 13 year old girl. I know people have different opinions about this stuff, but I wanna see it again. I was into it. So was the girl next to me. There were people, men and women, who were generally moved by the film. Crying. Laughing, the whole thing. I don’t know. This movie is haunting me somehow, in a way that some of the more obvious films aren’t.

  • Wladi

    Good review…really bad movie indeed but good actors/actress…I think if some guy liked this movie is maybe because in his inner most self he’s a pedo and if a girl enjoy this movie maybe is because she wanted to be or was at some point of her life a lolita…

  • Janet at TIFF

    The thing that is most interesting to me about this and other reviews of HICK is the visceral anger provoked by the portrait of a sexual 13 year old girl. I am a professor of gender studies who attended the screening of HICK last weekend, and have noted that this movie has incited an almost neo-Victorian response.

    It seems to me that the makers of HICK are exploring that ridiculous and dangerous moment in a girls life when she discovers her sexual currency. She begins to test its worth, its power. She follows her curiosity. She is goofy and unpredictable and not a little bit lethal. She carries a suitcase filled with coins she doesn’t know how to use. And when her curiosity to test her newfound value leads her to the wrong man, she finds herself in a suddenly dangerous situation from which she cannot escape unscathed.

    Show me the woman who did not find herself in trouble at 13, and I’ll show you a Disney movie.

    But it seems we have a hard time with this. Andrea Portes, author of the novel and screenplay, has been forthcoming about the semi-autobiographical nature of her story. Yet, we’d rather indict the perversity of Martini’s male gaze, or laud Almodovar, than imagine the world through Luli’s eyes.

    Also, I must comment on the plausibility question raised in many of these reviews. It appears clear from the art direction that this movie is not meant to be seen through the lens of gritty, realism. This world is lifted, heightened. We ain’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

    It’s a 21st century Indie Wizard of Oz, with a dangerous Dorothy.

    • John

      You lost me at professor of gender studies, but then I figured I’ll give your post my time.

      Anyways, you mostly comment ON the book – a gritty book, and I give kudos to the author for writing such realism. What I find odd is that you fail recognize that book and film are two different mediums of art, and that what happens in a book may not carry over successfully to screen. I understand your disagreement of the reviews, but this isn’t about grown men thinking “Hey, girls shouldn’t act that way so I’m going to dislike it.” It’s more of “the tone, style, script, editing, etc sucks and it doesn’t deliver whatever point the book is making.”

      You say: “It’s a 21st century Indie Wizard of Oz, with a dangerous Dorothy.”

      The ideas of the book may conjure such a comparison, but the movie doesn’t. It just fails.

  • Bert

    Just finished seeing 3 other movies at the festival over the last 2 days and none of them were as provocative as Hick.

    I had no idea what Hick was about but it kept surprising me and kept my interest. And yes, there were sobs at the end when the shit hits the fan. I, personally, got choked up.

    It is a rough movie because it’s a little tricky. It sets you up to be vulnerable for Luli and then it puts you in situations that are hurtful to her. Maybe that’s why some people dislike it. But at the screening I saw, the audience was pretty attentive and I saw no one walking out.

    I think this critic who is counting walk is sort of a cliched thing to do and write about when it comes to film festivals. What an idiot. Has he never been to a festival? People go in and out all the time and it’s so annoying. Even in the most popular of films people come and go. It’s such a silly, weird approach to take. Almost juvenile.

    As for the film as a whole, well, it is filled with many funny scenes and some very moving scenes. It’s not very straightforward, so it’s not going to be for everyone. But it certainly had an impact on me. I’m still thinking about it.

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  • simon

    looks like goldbgerg really hates the movie…so i gonna see it, like a bunch of people

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  • Lily

    I LOVE divisive movies like this so I am using my ticket for the last screening on Friday. I just read a few really positive things about Hick, then I read really negative. Now I HAVE to go see and decide for myself.

    I’m sure there’s merit to both sides of the coin here.

  • jason

    Or you could see it this way:


  • enya.

    Um, the phrase is “couldn’t care less.” As in, “I care so little about x, I could not care any less.” If you “could care less,” that means you still care. It’s an English idiom, people. Learn to write; learn to speak.

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  • G

    Maybe there are tons of posts on this page because there is a large following for this book/movie (Best seller). If its not believable to you, than you are lucky enough to have lived in some nice high-rise your entire life, and haven’t the sense inside yourself to understand how others are suffering. Trust me, there are people in this country that would surprise you more than the film. Sure its dramatized, it is a movie after all. Taxi-driver offended some when it was released.

    This story tackles unsettling material and should be slightly off-putting in nature. Shame on a critic for talking about walk-outs (at a festival) instead the important aspects of film creation. As someone who has read the book and seen the film, this one is not for all. Maybe Goldberg was looking for some cookie-cutter version that exaggerates an under-explored section of our society (see Winter’s Bone = phony).

  • Kristian

    Haven’t seen the film but I’ve read the book. And I regretted it. It’s just a bad, bad story. The clips suggest the film follows the book exactly so it is no surprise it became a bad, bad film.

    What is really scary is that Andrea Portes has been a studio script reader for years. IOW she’s one of the industry’s creative gatekeepers – and she couldn’t spot her own, self-made turkey.

    I’m getting the feeling that the producers are making a big effort to get some positive coverage. They shouldn’t bother. A story this bad always just had a one-way ticket to DVD-land.

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  • Critic

    Anyone forget about Dakota Fanning, Houndog?

  • Kristian

    Someone pointed out this video to explain why Chloe Moretz got attached to this film (and presumably why it got financed). Go to 3 minutes 50 seconds:


    If you listen further the video confirms that it’s her brother and mother that pick her roles.

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  • EngrishIsFunDaMental

    “a dull, ill-conceived messed”

    “Hick is latter.”

    “I don’t walkout”

    “Watching Martini flail around trying to figure out what kind of story would be entertaining if it weren’t such a chore.”

    I have no opinion on this film, but your writing is terrible.

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  • Kem

    This movie was so awful. The characters were misused. The plot was flat and pointless. The “climax” made me chuckle…but I don’t think that was the emotion the director was trying to evoke… All around terrible movie. I would recommend the movie as a great alternative to water-boarding.

  • anna

    Very good review

  • Kevin

    I enjoyed the movie precisely for the very reasons that Goldberg does not — a story that treats it’s subject as too complex to reduce to mere cliches. I’m glad it wasn’t a Lolita story. I’ve seen that. I appreciate that it walks a line that keeps it from being easily categorized. It does have that logical incoherence why Luli doesn’t run screaming after the sink attack. Other than that, I found it to be original and compelling.