By Admin | January 28, 2011

In the vein of other gritty teen films, such as Kids or Thirteen, Elgin James’ autobiographical drama introduces us to a number of youth and then follows them down the slippery slope of peer pressure and bad behavior until things have gotten so out of control that it’s almost unbelievable that these were the moody but not too maladjusted kids we started with just two hours earlier.  But the trouble with Little Birds is that its hard-to-watch predecessors have already covered this ground and done a better job doing so.  The film doesn’t promise to be the grittiest story ever told but it does attempt to shock with its bleak view of small town life and even more austere imagery of the big city.  Self-mutilation, internet predators, and murder, it’s all here.  And even the least prudish moviegoer will most likely question the decision to feature the film’s fifteen-year-old protagonist (although she’s played by an older actress) in a number of nude scenes.  Birds tries too hard to press buttons and get reactions while suffering from an overbearing attitude that annoying boasts “I’ll show you what the streets are really like!”

But that’s not to say that there aren’t elements in Little Birds to appreciate.  First, the two leads, Juno Temple (Atonement) and Kay Panabaker (Fame) both give impressive performances.  Temple plays Lily Hobart, the troublemaker teen who convinces her best friend, Alison (Panabaker), to steal a truck and run away to Los Angeles to meet up with some skateboarding squatters.  Alison is much more innocent than her bratty but fiercely loyal friend but with that innocence comes the likelihood of being talked into doing stupid things.  It immediately becomes clear that the boys they’ve come to visit are playing on a whole other level.  This is where the PSA against city life begins.  And it doesn’t end until the end credits.  But the film looks good, benefits from skillful editing, and hosts beautiful music throughout.  For the most part, the film’s problems begin at the writing level.  It’s a mystery how accomplished actresses such as Leslie Mann (Funny People) and Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns) became attached to this script as their characters are written to be minor and flat set pieces. A touch of tact and some reeling in could have gone a long way for Little Birds.

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