If you were my kid I’d make you eat onion and lard sandwiches
On Sunday evening I drove back from the Scottish town of Dumfries after watching my beloved Blackburn Hawks add the Playoff title to their League crown and I stopped at a local Asda (the English version of Walmart for my American readers) to get some provisions for the drive home. In the DVD section they had a film that looked interesting by the name of Behind Closed Doors, starring a young Jennifer Lawrence and Chloe Grace Moretz, who of the most promising actresses in Hollywood at the moment.
When I arrived home I searched for it on the internet and for some reason it wasn’t called Behind Closed Doors, nor had it ever been known by that name, it was instead called The Poker House. This continues a common trend where a film is known by several different names for seemingly no apparent reason. For example, I reviewed a film called Alien Outpost some months ago was then renamed to Outpost 37 and then simply Outpost on iTunes. I don’t know whether they’re simply trying to confuse people when it comes to bad reviews, but either way it’s a timewaster…much like this film.
Those who have read my reviews know that I don’t like time-wasters. I am a keen supporter of independent and lower budget films, hence why I run this website, but they have to have a point and I absolutely hate films that think they’re telling a big, important story but completely forget about the basics of story telling, all whilst fulfilling Lori Petty’s desire to tell us about a part of her life in a way that could basically be summed up with pointless and self-fulfilling nonsense.
As there isn’t really a plot I’ll just simply put it like this, Agnes (Lawrence) mopes around at home before getting raped by her drug riddled mother’s boyfriend/pimp Duval (Woodbine), all before going to play a game of basketball.
That is pretty much the entire film.
Good? Yay or Nay?
This is one of the most pointless films I’ve ever seen and it’s almost as forgettable as the acting of it’s director, Lori Petty. Petty’s peak of her career in the early 90s with performances in films such as Free Willy, A League of Their Own, Point Break and Tank Girl, but even then she was largely forgettable in each role, that despite the high pitched voice that she has. Then again, this film is supposedly based on the teenage life of Petty herself and it is one of the most self-fulfilling and pretentious pieces of crap that has ever been produced in Hollywood. Petty has, for some reason, thought that her story was worth telling but has decided to tell it in a lifeless way.
If anything, this film reeks of a woman who is overly desperate to stay relevant in Hollywood whilst not realising that she was never that relevant in the first place. Much like her character in A League Of Their Own, Petty seems to think that she is more important and considerably more talented than she is. If Petty had ever been an actress that was worth remembering for more than ten seconds then I would forgive her for thinking that people care about her life and childhood, and it reeks of desperation for attention.
My main contention with The Poker House comes from that there is very little plot for the majority of it. I’m almost at an hour in the film whilst writing this sentence, nearly 2/3 of the way through the film, and yet I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the plot is. There seems to be no central storyline or anything remotely resembling a plot. That for me is the biggest crime that you can commit as a film maker.
When it does finally get moving, only in the final 20 minutes, it is still largely unwatchable because of how unsympathetic they have made Agnes throughout. One of the main problems is you’re expected to feel sorry for the character of Agnes and for the situation that she finds herself in. She wallows about her house, writes morbid poetry and watches as her mother flirts and sleeps with countless men, however, this is then completely countered by the few scenes that she actually leaves the house she is shown to be a happy go lucky, almost carefree girl, and it’s almost like she is in two entirely different films.
The character gets raped by Duval and instead of reporting it to the Police at any point, she goes to cry in a bath tub, threaten him with a gun and then goes to play a game of basketball, and the film ends with her and her sisters signing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. That is literally how the film ends. There’s no comeuppance for Duval, no resolution for the relationship with her mother and seemingly the only way to get over being raped is to play basketball and have a sing-along with your sisters.
If you’re going to try and make me feel sympathy for a character, at least try and make the character consistent. I can’t take a supposedly depressed character seriously when she is a perfectly normal and functioning person outside of the house. If she was truly unhappy then she could just leave there as she clearly knows most people around the neighbourhood and could clearly stay with one of them for a while.
Before someone comes up with the “she’s staying for her sisters” argument for putting up with living in the house as long as she does, that is an invalid argument as with her two sisters, one of them is barely in the house and the other is literally not seen once in that house. Cammie is supposedly the sister of Agnes and yet the first time you see them on screen together is in the 83rd minute.
This is not to say that Agnes isn’t well acted by Jennifer Lawrence. It was Lawrence’s first feature film and it’s easy to see why she went onto bigger and better things than this pile of crap. The scene in the bathtub is excellently played by Lawrence and is arguably the stand out scene in the film.
Infact, none of the characters are played poorly, Moretz is fantastic as Cammie, although the character is completely irrelevant to the story. You could take Cammie out of the story and there would literally be no difference to the overall plot (well, what they try and pass of as a plot). She is almost the definition of a pointless character.
The character of Bee is exactly the same, although Bairley is no where near as enjoyable to watch as he counterparts. Much like Cammie, Bee offers nothing to the story and the only thing you learn about her is that she has a paper round and that is near enough literally it. There isn’t a redeeming
It’s not often I say this but I can’t think of a single positive with this film, not one.
A meaningless and pointless film that is a complete waste of 92 minutes of your time. It doesn’t have a single redeeming feature and it is one of the most pretentious pieces of crap I’ve ever sat through and watched.
This is 92 minutes of your life that you won’t get back.