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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

10.19.2000

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flick pick | Lawn Dogs 1997
Directed by: John Duigan
Written by: Naomi Wallace
Starring: Mischa Barton, Sam Rockwell, Christopher McDonald, Kathleen Quinlan
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
drama
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something: 
fantastical, serious
The verdict: Ĺ / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis Ten-year-old Devon Stockard lives in the posh gated suburban community of Camelot Gardens. Dadís too busy trying to climb the local political ladder to notice that bored housewife Mom is having an affair with a dumb-ass neighborhood college boy. Neither knows quite what to make of their strange little girl, who seems unable to make friends with other girls her age. (Actually, sheís just uninterested: "I donít like children. They smell like TV.") Of course, her vacuous parents are so self-involved that when one day, Devonís rebellious streak sends her walking straight out of the sheltered confines of Camelot, red wagon full of homemade Girl-scout-type cookies in tow, they havenít a clue that sheís wandered out into the big wide world. That afternoon, she stumbles across a trailer in the middle of the woods, the home of Trent, a twenty-something young man who makes his living by mowing lawns for rich folks like Devonís. Oddball Devon feels an immediate kinship with the misfit loner, and pesters her way into a friendship with him. Itís a relationship that both realize must remain a secret from the paranoid and class-conscious adults of Devonís world.

Review Up until the last 20 minutes or so of Lawn Dogs, Iíd have enthusiastically given the big Ďol thumbs up to this unusual little flick, raving about its depiction of the unsettlingly strange relationship that develops between a precocious, affluent little girl and the lawn-mowing, trailer-dwelling young man she befriends. Iím all for the unexpected when it comes to movie endings, but this one Ė without injecting too much of a spoiler, letís just say that the magical realism-imbued finale demands sudden and complete suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer Ė left me yelling "where the *!?! did that come from?" at the screen. Nevertheless, thereís enough thatís intriguing and lyrical and yes, even a little daring in this lazily rambling flick that itís definitely worth a look -- from the beautifully saturated, fairy-tale colors to such wonderfully unexpected plot caprices as when, shortly after the Trent character is first introduced, we watch him park his truck smack in the middle of a one-lane bridge, strip buck-naked as if oblivious to the gawking on-lookers, and do a graceful dive straight into the river. Mischa Barton does an amazing, Natalie Portman-esque (a la The Professional, not her more recent dreck) turn as the simultaneously worldly-wise and angelically innocent young Devon, and Sam Rockwell is just plain sublime as Trent.
 ó reviewed by Y. Sun 

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