George (Joshua Peck) is the school bully, an unpleasant fat kid with an aggressive personality. When Sam (Rory Culkin) tells his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) that George hit him at school, revenge becomes the topic of conversation. The plan is to invite George on a trip down the river with school pals Marty (Scot Mechlowicz), Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Sam's girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder), and humiliate him. But in this new environment, Sam sees George in a whole different light and wants to call the whole thing off.
Review by Louise Keller:
A well-made film about teenagers forced to make adult decisions, Mean Creek turns a boat ride on a beautiful summer's day in Oregon into a nightmare filled with ominous shadows. First time writer/ director Jacob Aaron Estes brings sensitivity and insight to this tale of teens pushed to extremes and forced to confront their sense of responsibility and morality. Beautiful cinematography offers a sharp contrast between the beauty of nature and the ugliness of the unexpected events that occur, when plans turn sour.
It all starts innocently enough, when Sam (Rory Culkin), his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan), Marty (Scot Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) invite school bully George (Joshua Peck) on a boat trip down the river. But what George doesn't know, is that it's not his company they are after, but a chance to humiliate him. George is an obnoxious fat kid. He's a bit of a loner and demands attention by beating up on kids smaller than him. He is obsessed by his video camera and fantasises that one day the images he captures will have great significance to a higher life form. He even believes that his dyslexia contributes to his uniqueness. But Sam's face is still bruised from George's fists, and the boys plan to get George to strip off naked and leave him in the middle of nowhere.
As soon as they head off in Marty's mother's car, surprisingly it is George who shows himself to be the responsible one. With impeccable manners he brings Sam an expensive birthday present, berates Marty for driving while drinking beer and no seatbelt, and is even rather charming as he complements Rocky on his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, asking for the recipe. Sam's girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) senses something is amiss, and when Sam confides in her about the impending prank, she insists they call it off. Sam and Rocky agree, but Marty bears a deep seated resentment of George, who in a terrifying game of Truth or Dare, starts mouthing off about Marty's father, who stuck a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger some years earlier.
What happens next is both unexpected and shocking and all the reactions are totally credible. 'You always have to go with the best idea you've got,' says Marty, 'otherwise you don't know what to do.' Estes excels at capturing the contrasts, and there is an uncomfortable silence as the shocked group paddles home. The orange-tinted sky and mirror-like ripples that would seem idyllic under other circumstances, are now anything but. The power lies in the unspoken words - between Marty and his older brother, Clyde and his gay parents, and between Sam and Millie. Truth settles like an ominous covering and the impact of the events begins to sink in.
All the performances are excellent, with special mention to Scot Mechlowicz as the short-fused Marty and Joshua Peck as George, who manages to show the semblance of an unfortunate kid with a personality problem through the cracks of the abhorrent.
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MEAN CREEK (MA)
CAST: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder, J.W. Crawford
PRODUCER: Susan Johnson, Rick Rosenthal, Hagai Shaham
DIRECTOR: Jacob Aaron Estes
SCRIPT: Jacob Aaron Estes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sharone Meir
EDITOR: Madeleine Gavin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Greg McMickle
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 4, 2005