Hounddog - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Hounddog Reviews

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February 10, 2018
If there's a Southern-gothic cliché (oh, those snakes!) that writer-director Deborah Kampmeier misses, I don't know it.
October 2, 2016
After this film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the only thing people could say about it was that it was "the Dakota Fanning rape movie," in that there is a scene where the main character, played by the then 12 year old actress is subject to a rape attack. People stayed away in droves. Outrage became so ridiculous that, according to Dakota, people were calling her MOM and scolding her for allowing her daughter to appear in such a film! Dakota was one of the best child actresses of her generation, and possibly of all time, for her delicate, mature portrayals of her young characters. Of course, she's still a great actress today, but as a child actress she was special for her intelligence and thoughtful approach to acting. And there are lots of other great actors in the film, past (Piper Laurie), present (Robin Wright Penn) and future (Isabelle Fuhrman, another amazing child actress, makes her film debut here.) So I decided to give this one a shot.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered the actual scene depicting the infamous rape is actually the MOST subtle scene in the movie. No unnecessary lingering and certainly no graphic depicting. Just a close up of her face and the horrified look that comes across it as she realizes what's really happening...
...and then there's virtually EVERY SINGLE THING that comes before and after that. Normally I don't like to judge movies based on a single scene. But I can judge this movie on the fact that it's simply awful. The script is a veritable slop trough of overheated Southern melodrama, ridiculous soap opera plot turns, and everyone in the cast acting without the aid of someone to reign them in and help them decide what emotion goes where. It's one of the worst messes I've ever seen. It just becomes more and more outrageous until it reaches the ending-the ultimate point of outrage! I haven't been this disgusted with a film ending in a long time. I truly regret watching this. Dakota's still one of our best young actresses, and she does what she can, but this unruly disaster was deserving of the scorn it received- not because of a rape scene, but because the rape scene is the only part of the movie that doesn't try to communicate it's ideas and feelings by smashing you in your face with a sledgehammer. Skip this. The one star is just my personal respect for the talented actors involved, but it's no recommendation of any sort.
June 1, 2016
This movie feels like it was written by a chronically depressed atheist, who wanted to convince as many people as possible that life is ultimately meaningless, and the only escape from this worldly hell is the sweet embrace of death. The movie features a boring girl, living in the most empty patch of the American South, who suffers through an endless series of depressing and pointless things. This movie won't make you cry. It'll just leave you feeling like an empty husk of a human being. If there is a moral to the story of 'Hounddog', it's probably "There is no God". This movie is so depressing and empty, that even looking back on it after several years, I feel physically ill.
January 30, 2015
I watched Hounddog in 2010. I came across the rotten tomato reviews and was flabbergasted by the reviews of critics with "names" that are supposed to be listened to. I certainly do not understand listening to critics if they have no understanding of the talent Deborah Kampmeier beholds, especially when people that are not critics that have watched it and posted through Amazon gave her 4 and 5 stars. This film hit me straight to the heart. There is nothing cliché or overwrought about it and to say that anything in this film is exploitative is downright appalling and it hurts my soul that negative, unmindful, tongue and cheek reviews are even posted for the glamour of the job. We get nowhere by being unmindful.
If you have ever been a child in the south, raped, or sexually abused you will surely understand every detail of this film and the message it sends, that I will leave for you to explore, but please don't listen to what critics say with diarrhea in their mouths. Even so, if you were never a child in the south or raped, it can't be hard to understand what it is like to love Elvis and want to dance in your underwear. The most appalling of all is that the critics have lost sight of what it is like to grow up while discovering their own sexuality and the innocence that is slowly taken from us as we become aware of the dangers in the world around us.
If you have ever had a mother that is distant or a father that is mentally ill, if you have ever been betrayed in the innocence of your youth, then you will most certainly understand the choices Ms. Kampmeier makes with lightning bolts and snakes. I always loved the idea that as an artist you had the right to explore your own world and show it to anyone that wanted to see it and I am so thrilled that her voice is out there for me to sit in a dark room and explore without the judgment of the world on top of me.
Deborah Kampmeier is a Goddess and her work is divine. She is well beyond her time in the message she conveys and the talent in the film is so brave and so courageous. Dakota Fanning is absolutely riveting, true, and honest. I have never seen a film that shows what rape can do to a soul the way Ms. Kampmeier does. She simplified it down to a very important message. I think it is important for any filmmaker or artist to articulate what rape is and not have parameters on what it is supposed to be. Rape is not always like Keifer Sutherland in an Eye for an Eye. Sometimes rape is so quiet you can't believe it ever happened.
In my opinion, Deborah Kampmeier has the most essential voice of our time and to listen to any bad review or critic just takes away from the work that must absolutely be seen. Please do yourself the honor and watch it for yourself.
All my heart - Liddie J.
July 1, 2014
Astoundingly slow and awkward. A young white trash girl drowns all her problems by singing Elvis tunes. She also uses her charms to see a boys penis and strings him along (tease) until he finally gives up and turns on her. Tragedy happens and she faces her fears by singing Elvis' Hounddog to her own melody. Corny crap wrapped in psychological BS.
½ May 30, 2014
Dakota Fanning is amazing in this movie. The story line is not a feel good setting, but it's realistic of a girl living in poverty with an abusive home setting. It shows how a young girl goes through a series of very difficult things but is able to find her voice again at the end. She picks herself up and carries on.
April 21, 2014
Fanning is great, but it isn't enough to help find a point to this movie. There is no "finding comfort in music" despite the fandom of Fanning's character with Elvis. It's more a visual portrayal of being poor in the 50s South (good and bad). Other than that I had a hard time finding meaning in any of it.
½ June 21, 2013
½ May 3, 2013
Dakota Fanning's performance is wonderfully acted however the film lets her down with a predicable script and a lewd third act.
April 8, 2013
As a child lover myself I quite enjoyed watching this movie and recommend it to all who wants to see the sexual depiction of a fairly cute, but a little old looking, 12 year old.
½ January 16, 2013
this was so terrible. i cant imagine how the hell i managed to watch the whole thing. just such a poor film.
½ November 12, 2012
Dakota did a great job. Sort of a strange movie though.
October 19, 2012
loved this movie, and that song
October 12, 2012
There was no plot...
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ August 29, 2012
"You ain't nothin' but a hounddog, [u]been snoopin' round my door![/u]" If she was still alive, I'd imagine Big Mama Thorton would be cryin' all the time, because hardly anyone remembers that she was the first person to actually do "Hound Dog", and you better believe that they brought that up in this film, seeing as how it's set in Thorton's and my beloved Alabama, though specifically at an era of Alabama that I'm not especially proud of. Ironic how we finally get a major reminder of the original "Hound Dog", and yet, no one ended up seeing the film, though I can't say I'm too surprised, because I'm a bit thrown off by a certain other something that this film brings up with brutal honest. Poor Dakota Fanning, at only 12, was really trying to establish herself as one hardcore serious actress, and yet, hardly anyone saw this film, and almost all of the people who did, in fact, see it said that it was terrible, while just about "every" single person who saw it couldn't shut up about "that" scene (It's a mega-spoiler, so either watch the film or look it up, you dirty cheaters), even though it wasn't even a minute long and only showed Fanning's horrified face. Granted, it's still really, really messed up that they got a 12-year-old to do a scene like that, and plus, the scene itself is still about as harsh as it can be as a face-shot, so either way, I think that we can all agree that this film stands as yet another awesome testament to how the indie industry is filled with the audacious, or at least creeps, because it does seem as though the only types of experimental methods they do in the indie film industry are of either this film's notorious scene's certain nature or a boringly lyrical and borderline storyless nature. As much as these filmmaking "experiments" go explored, you'd think that they would ironically be too overused to actually be experimental, and yet it seems like every year there are more than a few crazy kids who come up with a new, more messed up way of milking these experiments for all their worth, with this film being ultimately "an" exception, because even with its, well, pretty, or at least relatively considerably tamed certain scene, this is not much more than the same-old-same-old. Eh, whatever, this is still a pretty decent film, yet make no mistake, regardless of how everyone makes it seem, "that" notorious scene wasn't the critics' only complaint, and lord knows that it's not my only complaint either.

Not a whole lot in the way of narrative focus can be found, for although this film isn't, well, that other type of experimental indie filmmaking that I mentioned earlier, where it drifts along quietly and lyrically, it goes bloated by filler, as well as plot points that string too organically together, to the point dissipating build, and by extension, intrigue after a while. It doesn't help that the film is not only steady in structure, but in atmosphere, being surprisingly not being all that dull, yet still not too terribly far away from that point, as it limps along dryly with little bite and limited livliness in the atmosphere, rarely, if ever to where you're left all that bored, yet decidedly to where it's easy to fall out of the film, as it tends to drag its feet a bit too much, both in story structure and atmospheric execution. Again, the film doesn't limp along quite as much as I expected it to, though pull back on the sighs of relief, as this film still stands to pick up the pace a bit, which is no more than what you can say about a lot of southern-gothic indie dramas of this type, and therein lays yet another complaint, as this film is nothing if not faithful to its type, in that it plummets into many story tropes and conventions within this genre that have been done to death, which of course makes the film predictable, as well as supplementary to the limiting of the film's intrigue and subtlety, both of which are pretty limited to begin with. Now, the consensus describes the film as "overwrought" and "downright exploitative", and really, I wouldn't say that this film is nearly that unsubtle, or even all that ceaselessly unsubtle to begin, as its tackling of plot points that could go the way of either subtle or unsubtle is an event that is surprisingly in short supply. However, while the film is never anything along the lines of "exploitative" in its unsubtlety, when we do hit those either hit or miss moments of potentially subtle dramatic depth - whether it be the struggles of David Morse's Lou character or "that" notorious scene -, the film slips up, not quite taking all that major of a plunge into the essence of the drama, but instead laying down more cliches and even a bit of sentimentality, leaving the dramatic note to miss more than hit, and never hit as hard as the should when they do connect. To my surprise, the story to this film doesn't seem terribly worthy, partially because we've seen it all done before, and done better, so it's not like there's a whole lot to be disappointed with, yet the film does stand to hit harder, preferably while heading in a different direction. However, at the end of the day, the film is, at least to me, far from the disaster critics claim it to be, for although the film is much too considerably flawed to reward, I found it to be a generally enjoyable watch, partially because "that" notorious scene comes in late and is actually relatively tamed quite a bit, and largely because the film isn't without its fair share of strengths.

This film is so conventional that even its should-be unique cinematography looks familiar, yet at least I remember this type of cinematography as good-looking, so sure enough, Jim Denault provides depth in the film's coloring, giving it an attractive livliness, married with a degree of dramatic bleakness, to supplement the tone of the story, and there is plenty of depth, or at least potential depth in the story to supplement. Again, this story is a highly conventional one, and one that's not even all that terribly worthy to begin with, though it remains a compelling tale whose concept on paper is better than this film's execution, yet remains nevertheless compelling enough to where there is a degree of immediate intrigue. The structure and execution of the story isn't strong enough to fully flesh out this intrigue, yet that moderate engagement value remains consistently workmanlike, holding a certain charm about that's actually ameloriated by much of the filler, which may slow down the bite of the substance, but still gives us enough of a chance to bond with these characters and their stories, maybe not as much as we should, yet still enough for the film to not lose you too often. Director, writer and co-producer Deborah Kampmeier's ambition is palpable, though perhaps too much so, to the point of creating overambition that hazes her good intentions, which were already hurt from the get-go by the film's being so highly conventional and sometimes unsubtle, yet the fact of the matter is that Kampmeier has her heart in this film, and firmly enough for it to maybe not hit nearly as much as it should, yet still have a charm and reasonable degree of spirit to it, elevated by the charming performances within the reasonably strong cast, from which at least two standouts emerge as particularly strong, or at least when they have something to do. David Morse feels rather underused, and when does arrive, the writing and direction of the film restrains the effectiveness of Morse's performance by either giving Morse surprisingly little to do or giving Morse some of the film's most sentimental material, which makes light of his Lou characters' situations as a struggling loving father, alcoholic and, eventually, victim an unfortunate and life-altering accident. However, where Morse could have succumb to the not-so-competent filmmaking and come off as too artificial as a hardly all that necessary supporting character, he ultimately triumphs and transcends his retraints, conveying the love and pain of the Lou character, particularly once the accident occurs and presents Morse something of an acting challenge, which he manages to pull off more believably than the script establishes it to be. Morse helps in giving this film some life and steals the show when given the opportunity, much like the also underused yet notably immensely charming Afemo Omilami as the generic wise and mystical black man (Like I said, this film gets really cliche), yet at the end of the day, this is Dakota Fanning's show, and she holds her own as well as you would expect her to, being given only so much material to work with, yet boasting a consistent presence of both strength and innocence that makes our primary Lewellen character a charming one, while the more emotional moments in Fanning's performances carry this film's dramatic weight, maybe too far, considering the lack of punch in the script and direction, but far enough for the film to engage and for Fanning to offer further evidence of her talent, particularly during the final act that succeeds "that" notorious scene and presents Fanning with more material, which she uses to make the final act of the film reasonably moving, even if it does get to be a bit manipulative, which isn't to say that Fanning isn't consistently strong enough to carry a film this flawed and help in making it reasonably enjoyable to those willing to stick with it through all of the faults in the execution of its ambition.

Overall, the film pulls the old southern-gothic indie drama trick of limping along with a draggy and not too comfortably structured storyline, made worse by the slowness that may not be terribly severe, yet remains as present here as it is in many other films of this type, which isn't to say that the conventions end there, as the film collapses into trope after trop and establishes predictability, further pronounced by the lack of subtlety that helps in making this film an underwhelming one, yet hardly the disaster many claim it to be, as it is well-shot enough to catch your eye, with a story that may be conventional and not especially well-told, yet remains strong enough in concept to reasonably charm when it needs to most and have some degree of flesh-out, made all the more effective by the charming performances, the strongest of which being by a show-stealing David More and show-owning Dakota Fanning, who carries "Hounddog" and helps in making it a watchable coming-of-age tale, even if it has been done time and time again, and typically better.

2.5/5 - Fair
August 16, 2012
Very good movie, but a bit depressing.
July 12, 2012
I admit the movie was full of cliches, especially the black blues singers teaching a white person how to sing the blues. However, one cannot insult Dakota Fanning's precocious acting ability. If only the script had been better.
½ May 29, 2012
A really boring western drama. The only reason saw it was to see 2 of my favorite actresses.
½ May 19, 2012
It was so good. Not a light and fluffy movie. Tough to watch in some parts but, I thought it was an excellent movie.
May 12, 2012
This movie was a complete waste of time. Even the rape that is so controversial turned out to be insignificant. Perhaps the hype from that is what got anyone to watch this movie in the first place.
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