Let's get this out there right from the top: Yes, Dakota Fanning's performance in Hounddog is mature, powerful, and everything it should be to launch her career to the next level as a young actress who can handle serious roles. That said, however, Hounddog is also one of the least likeable films I've seen here at Sundance -- and not, as you might expect, merely because it has a scene of the young actress being violently raped. Fanning plays Lewellen, a young girl somewhere in the South whose big dream is to meet Elvis Presley. Elvis, she imagines, is going to take her away from her troubled life and make her a famous singer. Lewellen lives back and forth between the ramshackle shack her daddy (David Morse) lives in, and the house up front where her Grammie (Piper Laurie) lives.
Lewellen and her family are what their neighbors on the better side of the tracks might call "white trash," and if ever a movie took every white trash stereotype out there and stuck in one place, this is it. And of course, if you're going to make a movie about white trash in the Deep South in the 1950s, why, there'd better be some black folks around for them to hang out with, so the well-to-do white folk can have a reason to toss around the "n-word." And while you're at it, make sure to make one of those black folks the wise, all-knowing, medicine-man character (Charles, played by Afemo Omilami) who saves the day with his mojo. Oh, and don't forget to toss in a random rich white girl to contrast with the trashiness of the poorer character and treat her like dirt, just in case we don't get it.