Hounddog Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated September 27th, 2008 at 11:14 am,

Short version: Were it not for the Dakota Fanning rape scene controversy, no one would be talking about this boring film.

hounddog Hounddog ReviewSo you’ve heard all the talk, accusations and screaming about the film Hounddog (or as many spelling-impaired people are writing it: Houndog) screening at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival starring Dakota Fanning but haven’t seen the film. The big question on people’s mind is “Just how outrageous or explicit was that rape scene?”

So you can gauge my answer, keep in mind that although this is a movie & TV website, for the most part I’ve come at stories from the point of view of a parent when it’s appropriate. I do not want every movie release to be Rated G, but on the other hand it drives me insane when bloodless yet intense violence or overt sexuality is aimed at kids.


The scene in question did in fact make me queasy and was sickening, but that was due more to the event than to anything on screen that could be considered even remotely explicit in regards to what was shown of 12 year old Dakota on the screen. If memory serves it looked like it may have been shot in a way where the actor portraying the rapist may never even have been on top of her. I could be mistaken on that point, but that was my impression. There were shots of her feet, hands and of course her face, and the scene was very brief.

Later on I’ll get to what bothered me about the film that I haven’t heard people talking about much. On to the movie…

Hounddog takes place some time in the late 50′s or early 60′s in the rural south. Dakota Fanning plays Lewellen, a very precocious 12 year old. It seems that right from the start the goal of the film is to make viewers uncomfortable as it opens with a scene between her and a boy that looks a bit younger that is her best friend. They’re in the woods and she wants him to drop his pants and underwear for a peek in exchange for a kiss. She talks about wanting to kill her father, which led me to believe that there may have been some sexual abuse going on, but it’s never alluded to again.

When she gets back home to the run-down shack where she and her father live, he is hanging all over Robin Wright Penn (whose character name I don’t recall) and is apparently a new girlfriend. Lewellan is a huge Elvis fan and she loves to sing his hit song “Hounddog” in particular. What is unsettling about that is that when she sings and really gets into the song she tries to gyrate like Elvis in a very provacative manner, sometimes moving like a dancer from a strip club. Seeing an undeveloped 12 year old moving like that is just plain creepy.

The film kind of rambles along and we meet Lewellan’s grandmother (played by Piper Laurie), and some of the black folks in town including Charles, a (too?) wise old soul and fan of snakes, which he uses to create medicine. The very bad guy in the movie is a new milkman in his early 20′s, who comes by Lewellan’s house one day and happens to see her singing a bit of her favorite song with her trademark moves, except this time while lying on her bed. He is the one who eventually rapes Lewellan.

Hounddog suffers from something I’ve noticed in some other indie films: It’s boring and it’s too long. Although it’s filled with gorgeous scenery, the film just seems to go on and on and on. This was yet another hour and a half long movie that felt twice as long. The best thing about the film is Dakota Fanning’s performance. She really is amazing at the range and subtlety of emotion she can convey at such a young age. I only hope that she is one of the very few child actors who survives the transition to adulthood unscathed.

The other thing that bothered me that I alluded to above was that I’ve never seen a 12 year old wearing just underwear in a movie in so many scenes. There were also instances of her lifting her dress to carry fruit or to pull something she’d been carrying out of her underwear. I can only assume the point of that was to show that she was very un-self-conscious about her body, but this doesn’t jive with her constantly wanting to kiss her best friend. That indicates to me that she is starting to enter puberty which I would think comes with an increased sense of privacy.

Is the director saying Lewellan was inadvertantly asking for it through her behavior? I doubt that. Is she saying Lewellen should be allowed to act seductively without fear of being attacked? I don’t know. My answer is obviously that there can be no justification for taking advantage of a child, but that she should be told that certain ways of acting are inappropriate and there are people out there who will respond to that behavior without giving thought to what is right and what is wrong.

I really believe that director Deborah Kampmeier was earnestly trying to bring attention to the subject of sexual abuse of children, but I don’t think showing a 12 year old girl acting seductively and peppering the film with scenes of her in her underwear was the way to go about it.

Those creepy guys who ogle kids underwear ads in the JC Penny catalog will no doubt enjoy this film, everyone else… not so much.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5
(Okay)

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TAGS: 2 star movies, sundance

41 Comments

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  1. As I’ve been writing about in all my coverage of this over hyped controversy is the fact that the filmmakers stated that she was on her own during the scenes of rape, there was no one on top of her and she was clothed, editing did the rest.

    As for the rest of it, it does sound a little off, but the main reason I won’t watch it is that it just sounds too long and boring, not because pressure groups are going mad without ever having seen it.

    Thanks for the review Vic, oh and I can’t get email through to you by the way.

  2. As a parent this hurts on so my levels, as a human being is scares me to death that a director would use such a small child in such a provocative way. It is so sad to think how the pervs will use this movie.

  3. Smitty, I hear you. I do believe the director had good intentions, but the film will end up appealing to the wrong crowd. I think it’s really difficult to make a film that tries to draw attention to this subject without somehow conveying how horrific it is. I would have been more supportive of this if not for the decisions made that I describe towards the end of my interview.

    Vic

  4. I have seen the movie. I don’t think some of the posted comments are from people who have seen it. It is very respectful of Ms. Fanning and her talents as an actress. I saw her at the premeire showing at Sundance. She is obviously a VERY bright young girl and understands what she has been asked to do. I’m would think law would require a parent on the set during filming.
    In response to Vic’s review… imagine a girl who’s father flaunts his sexuality in front of the girl. She has been exposed to women as sex objects. This is what she thinks is normal, therefore this is how she acts, therefore the confusion between being a girl & woman.

  5. Toni,

    Point taken, but it would have been more effective in getting the director’s point of view across better in my opinion if they didn’t paint Fanning’s character so “come hither”, but instead had her act as a normal child her age.

    I do understand what you’re saying about *why* she might act that way and it does make sense.

    Vic

  6. I understand all that you guys/gals have had to say. I see the subjst from many points of veiw, as a “Modern Man”, as a Father, as a artist. I grew up knowing there is a line that we all know we should never cross…….does anybody know where it is anymore??

  7. The reason the line keeps moving is moral relativism. That determines that there is no true, unmoving “line”. Instead there is a fluid definition of what is right and wrong, or even worse the idea that what is wrong for me may be ok for you due to how you feel about some particular subject.

    Vic

  8. I am a nurse. I work at a residential treatment facility for boys ages 12-18. We have approximately 60 beds. One half of these boys have been sexually and physically abused. Usually 9 times out of 10 that child goes from being a victim to the abuser. This is real people. I am not sure if I want to see the movie but if the producer was trying to make a statement about child abuse more power to her. What happens with sexually abused children is they are not able to tell the difference between just motherly/fatherly love and the kind of love you have for someone of the opposite and/or same sex.
    Sometimes these children act in a manner that is very sexually to most because that is all they know and that is how they get their attention or love as some victims call it. For these children cannot always tell the difference between the types of love , we have to be careful with them they cannot be hugged and cuddled like the non-abused child. I see these kids suffer everyday of their lives. I see them cut themselves, fight other residents,having not nightmares, while sleeping in their beds the position looks as if they are bound (some were tormented like that),not taking showers, etc. Oh yes, not taking showers has prevented some victims from being abused because of the bad hygiene was a “turn off” to the abuser. The horror stories I know about these kids’ lives will make you vomit.
    I love my job but somedays it is so heartbreaking I just ask myself can I go on and keep doing this? I keep going back everyday as scheduled. Hoping to see a miracle. This kind of job isn’t for everyone. Evidentally there is something in the producer’s past life or that of a loved one that is so heavy she feels the need to make her statement. I do not doubt with all the wonderful advancements of our photography/film industry that the child was naked or a person was on top of her. The reason for the underwear scenes, well, that is her way of getting her attention, whether good or bad, because she doesn’t know any better. By the way, I am from South Carolina and I understand the movie was made in North Carolina. So if you know of a chld that is being abused or you suspect one is being abuse, don’t just sit there and do nothing, help that kid. Most of the abuse has come from family or close friends of the family. And for the wrong group wanting to see this movie, well, that is the said part because someone will enjoy this kind of pain. That part sickens me. I am not defending this movie as I have not seen it yet. I am just trying to give a few facts about abused children and why they act and react the way they do. Have a great day!! Bless the children. Nurse

  9. So sorry about my typos. Thought I could type without my glasses. Even with my typos, I am sure you will understand my point. Nurse :)

  10. Nurse,

    First of all, you are AWESOME for doing the work you do. I hear what you’re saying and I do give props to the director for trying to bring this into the spotlight. The problem I think lies in the fact that most people are not aware of the facts you presented above in regards to abused children’s behavior and would most likely read it the way I did.

    Thanks so much for contributing your thoughts here.

    Vic

  11. My kids have been wanting to watch this wounderful movie and i just havent been able to get it so they could i have read that it is a good movie for kids and parents and i really really rally would love to have this movie and surprise my kids please let me have this wounderfull movie

  12. Right… your KIDS have been wanting to watch it, because everything out there that talks about it makes it so appealing to them, right?

    Come on, now.

    Vic

  13. is this movie coming on dvd?

  14. I don’t know for sure but I can’t imagine any movie from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival not getting picked up for at LEAST a DVD release.

    Vic

  15. hey have you got a date when it should be out on DVD ?????

  16. Sorry, I’ve looked around and can’t find any info on a possible release date for a DVD.

    Vic

  17. What everyone is missing is Dakota wanted to make a statement about teen rape and how it effects them and their lives,Joy Fanning would NEVER allow Dakota to be in any danger or harm her in ANY way.
    Dakota wants the world and even the people who cause this pain to see the effects and how it ruins their lives and future!
    Its a statement that needs made because laws and people will not change the rapists minds nor make the sentences more severe to punish these people.
    You sentence a person to 20 years for molesting a child and the death sentence for raping a minor and watch what happens!

  18. It is about time this movie is released. Maybe this movie will bring more awareness to the terrible experiences children are forced to repress because of shame and false guilt. This issue must be addressed and confronted before children can begin the healing process. Craig Grandville MSW, MSED

  19. It is about time this movie is released. Childrens lives are ruined by incest all over this country. With greater awareness this problem can be confronted in ways that can help more children suffering from shame and false guilt, to begin the healing process. Craig Grandville aka Bobby Grandville

  20. Saw the movie and it was better than I originally thought it would be. Awesome, and I hope many people see it..It’s nothing like what people say. Barely an R rating. Craig Grandville

  21. From what I read, this is a film I will never see. Informing the puplic of such heinous behavior is something that needs to be done but not soo graphic. I would rather see a film where NURSE4DOUG4EVER and the children she takes care of are interviewed and their life stories are told. That would be a Sundance film I would buy.

    • Well I thought the movie was good the whole point they where trying to get across but I was so frustrated and mad when the little boy started hanging out with the guy who raped her and told (grasshopper) about it and took her to the elvis concert I mean I was just waiting and wishing for her to give him a hard punch!!! I hate when a girl gets screwed and doesnt get some revenge just trys to be the better person and move on if I would’ve been in that position I would’ve been beatin up somebody or at least a slap across the face is hurts your pride than a punch just something its so aggravating!!!!

  22. I REALLY don’t think the movie was boring at all
    I wasn’t sure if I should see it because of all the bad reviews it was getting but the movie is GREAT.
    One of my favorite movies, I really think if you are not sure if you want to see it like I was, you should go see it because it was great and you will be pleasantly surprised.

  23. I remember controversy over this last year. I highly doubt that with upwards to 50 people on the production crew that an of age actor would be on top of an underage actor/actress. Also there is a double standard here. People want to know about underage rape after the fact of the matter, but when it’s brought to there faces as it happens people say shame on you and start saying someone is promoting pedophilia?? I think the problem is just Americans want to have hard truths prettied up so they wont be offended. But some things are just better gotten accross being the natural way it is.

    Again not commenting on the movie because I havent seen it, but will rent it when it comes to DVD if ever. My commenting is based off of comments here and other places that have tried to scrutinize this flick.

  24. Watch the movie, then come back and comment on my review.

    Vic

  25. This is so rediculous, Again as I said before you people keep talking about how children should not knomw abnout this stuff. Heres a newsflas, They already kno, as young as 10 in most places, it is called Sex Ed. Ever heard of it? I mean seriously I think that kids would benifit from watching movies like this(not this exact one) but mabey one like it so that they know what to avoid. Think of it all kids watch are cartoons or movies about princesses and fairytales, sooner or later they are going to have to realize that although they can live their dreams, there is danger out there. I also want to say that Dakota fanning and kids her age and younger already know about this stuff. So stop already. I like the fact that some people are not touching the subject that there was a “rape” for have none of you heard of the movie “{Bastard out of CArolina” ANyways I dont ever think there should be a movie like “Pretty Baby” now that movie is gross. Thats my opinion.

  26. @Justin

    $20 bucks says you’re not a parent.

    Vic

  27. Vagisil anyone? Opinions, opinions. It is a movie…. I’m sure the actors are well aware of what’s going on… that’s why there are parents for guidance. What, noone has faith in parenting anymore. We can’t watch a movie. OOH rape scene, rape scene, I’m tired of people that have nothing better to do than to whine and people who just monkey see monkey do whines with the rest. Has anyone forgotten we all can think for ourselves. We have our own points of views. How can you protect someone (a child/anyone) when they don’t know what dangers they should stay away from. If this movie helps one bit, that’s great.

  28. Saw the film, saw the scene. People need to stop getting up in arms about something they were not a process of. Lets see, director, lighting’rigging, and other movie hands all present, its’s hard to believe that any sexual abuse of Dakota Fanning took place FOR REAL. This movie is rated R for mature audiences who know the difference between real and acting. Just because a person is so disturbed by an even that was meant to be disturbing doesn’t mean that every rape scene some one is getting raped for real child or adult. I don’t remember anyone causing a big stink stating child abuse for the rape scene in A Time to Kill, but I guess they would of had to show a hand and her face to go off on a tangent with wild assumptions. Sometimes people take things to far. I agree with anyone else who says a kid as young as 10 already has some knowledge of sex, that does not mean everyone and definitely they should not be watching a film like this.

  29. I actually enjoyed this movie a lot. The movie is a bit long but I like it. I think its just trying to show how a young girl is basically on her own and trying to overcome difficulties.
    I think Dakota Fanning’s performance was amazing. I think she has a lot of talent.
    I think to much focus is going into the rape scene. I’m not sure if someone pointed this out already but the movie is rated R. So kids shouldn’t be watching this anyway. However as a parent I can understand the feelings many others have. If my kid was to watch this movie I wouldn’t blame it on the movie or director or anything else. I think kids should be aware of what’s out there so if god forbid something was to happen to them they would at least be aware of it. I do agree that 10 is a bit young though.
    Anyway I really enjoyed the movie and I don’t think it is as horrible as everyone says.