MOVIE REVIEW: “Fierce People” a hidden masterpiece for too long
STARS: ANTON YELCHIN, DIANE LANE, DONALD SUTHERLAND, CHRIS EVANS, KRISTEN STEWART, PAZ DE LA HUERTA, ELIZABETH PERKINS, CHRISTOPHER SHYER, AARON BROOKS, BLU MANKUMA
DIRECTOR: GRIFFIN DUNNE
Fierce People has taken a long, roundabout road to the big screen. Filmed in 2004, and having premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival in New York, it has been thisclose to release several times since then, only to be scuttled at the last minute. This time, more than two years after it’s initial showing at Tribeca, it’s finally been released.
It was WELL WORTH the interminable wait.
Fierce People follows the story of Finn Earl (Yelchin), a fifteen year old living with his coke-head mother in New York. He is planning to spend the summer of 1980 with the anthropologist father he’s never met, observing the Yanomani people. But when Finn gets busted while making a score for his mother, Mom Liz (Lane) decides it’s time she straighten out her life, and her son’s life. She calls an old friend, Ogden Osbourne (Sutherland), who owns his own ten square mile city-state in New Jersey, and faster than Finn knows what’s happening, he and mom are off to live on Osbourne’s estate.
Finn is convinced that his masseuse mother and Osbourne are getting it on, and so are all the residents of Vlyvalle. But, as he says in the voiceovers that are actually letters to his father, just because he can’t join his father in South America doesn’t mean he can’t make a study of the natives of this detached country-within-a-country.
Finn quickly makes friends with Osbourne’s grandson, Bryce (Evans), by saving him from his searching, drunk mother, and also makes friends with the granddaughter, Maya (Stewart) after being caught in one of her bear traps that are meant for poachers on the estate, and his relationship with her quickly grows to something more than just friends.
As Finn begins to adjust to his surroundings and make friends with the natives, he also discovers the truth about how his mother and Mr. Osbourne became friends. In the process, he’s befriended and even given a job by Mr. Osbourne, who reveals exactly WHY he and Finn’s mother can’t be lovers, making Finn respect Mr. Osbourne even more.
Finn finally begins to feel at ease about his mother’s recovery and his own new life and friends. More importantly, his feelings of acceptance by Mr. Osbourne and his rich friends as one of "the tribe" as Bryce calls it, make him finally feel at home and at east. Then, an incident while walking to his home on the grounds late one evening, and its brutal and cruel nature, leaves the once smartalecky Finn emotionally shattered, physically devastated, his innocence and trust forever voided, and determined not to leave, despite his mother’s frantic wishes, until he finds out who was responsible for the incident, and more importantly, why it happened.
Why this movie has taken so long to reach the screen is beyond me, because without a doubt, Fierce People features some of the finest performances of this, or any other, year. Without a doubt, this movie belongs to young Yelchin. Just 15 when the movie was shot, he turns in a fun, bouncy, and ultimately emotionally charged performance as the films’ protagonist, Finn. Diane Lane, as Finn’s frazzled and sometimes unstable mother Liz, hasn’t delivered a performance this electric in years – the chemistry flows between Lane, Yelchin and Donald Sutherland as Osbourne. Chris Evans, best known as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies, turns in a fantastic performance as Osbourne grandson Bryce, who becomes one of Finn’s first friends, a 20-something man who lives for the approval of his grandfather. And Kristen Stewart is fantastic as Maya, a girl who is discovering who she is, and her sexuality, just as Finn arrives on the scene.
On a personal level, I was not even sure I was interested in this movie, save for the fact that I had heard Yelchin’s performance was amazing. So we took a chance on it, and I’m REALLY glad we did. I was completely absorbed and the story was absolutely fantastic. Actor/Director Griffin Dunne has made a masterpiece with this film. The lush, green estate sets are undeniably beautiful, and wonderfully filmed.
Because of its style, its substance, and its writing, but most importantly, its HEART, Fierce People has already grabbed one of those elusive spots on my all time favorites list, the third film to do so this year. And like Wristcutters:A Love Story before it, Fierce People grabs your throat, wraps itself around your heart, and then won’t let go. It’s a movie you’ll remember with fondness, and you’ll be telling everyone you run into to see it.
Fierce People is a CAN’T MISS movie. Seek it out at your local theater….you’ll be "fiercely" glad you did!!!
MY SCORE: 5 (OUT OF 5)
On The Web: http://fiercepeoplemovie.com