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It is the summer of 1980 and Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin) has a perversely fatalistic view of life. He never met his anthropologist father who lives in South America with the Iskanani Indians, and his masseuse mother Liz (Diane Lane) is a cocaine addict. In a bid to turn over a new leaf, Liz moves to New Jersey as masseuse to billionaire Ogden C. Osborne (Donald Sutherland) who is an old friend. Life changes instantly and quickly Finn finds himself among the rich who are very different, including Osborne's fun-loving grandson Bryce (Chris Evans) and sweet granddaughter Maya (Kristen Stewart) with whom Finn strikes up a romance.

Review by Louise Keller:
This intriguing film is somewhat different from the usual coming of age drama. A tumbled bookcase, a drug bust and a phone call form the sequence of events that change the life of Anton Yelchin's 16 year old protagonist Finn Earl. Out of bad comes good is the central theme of this tale about a nice kid who finds 'fierce people' where he least expects it. Griffin Dunn (Practical Magic) has written a truly original tale that takes a harsh look at life's façade and the shadows that lurk beneath. The characters are three dimensional and far from boring; Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland head the cast with excellent, credible performances as the drug-addicted masseur mother turning over a new leaf and ultra-rich magnate who is king in his own large estate.

When we first meet Yelchin's Finn, he is tentatively getting ready to meet his anthropologist father in the jungles of South America. The documentary about the 'fierce people' or the Iskanani Indians his father has sent as a birthday present (allegedly the meanest people in the world), acts as a backdrop throughout the film, as parallels are drawn with the people he is about to meet in New Jersey. Home becomes a massive estate owned by billionaire Ogden C. Osborne (Sutherland) who owes his mother Liz (Lane) a favour, when she decides to quit her cocaine habit. It is through Finn's eyes that we meet the diverse characters who live on the 10 square miles that form the estate with a castle-like mansion and an assortment of people who happen to be rich and privileged. He decides there and then to make his own anthropological study of these unpredictable specimens. There are hot air balloons, secret hideaways, deer in the woods, a retard, a maid eager to strip naked, a spoilt socialite daughter (Elizabeth Perkins) and her two teenage children (Chris Evans, Kristen Stewart).

Everything is a surprise. When Finn and Maya (Stewart) share their first kiss, it is over her comatose father. There are dark shadows behind the gloss of the elegant birthday parties under expensive marquis, when issues of jealousy, violence and revenge rear their ugly heads. Friendships are forged and relationships damaged as it becomes clear that fierce people can be found not only in primitive tribes in the middle of nowhere. Dunne makes the film's points only too well, leaving us satisfied with this trip to the jungle.

Published August 28, 2008

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(US, 2005)

CAST: Diane Lane, Anton Yelchin, Donald Sutherland, Chris Evans, Kristen Stewart, Paz de la Huerta, Blu Mankuma, Elizabeth Perkins

PRODUCER: Griffin Dunne, Nick Wechsler

DIRECTOR: Griffin Dunne

SCRIPT: Dirk Wittenborn (based on his novel)


EDITOR: Allyson C. Johnson

MUSIC: Nick Laird-Clowes


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes



DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 27, 2008

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