Endless turbulence, the loudest snorer ever to snooze the friendly skies behind me and a vomiting child aside me couldn't keep me from landing at the Sundance Film Festival. (Really, it's not like I could ask them to turn the plane around).
And lucky for me -- or was it? -- I arrived here just in time to catch what's arguably been the most buzzed-about (ahem, controversial) movie at the fest, 'Hounddog,' AKA 'The Unholy Dakota Fanning Project,' in which the 12-year-old actress gets raped on screen. Like 'Death of a President' at last fall's Toronto fest, the controversy translated into a maximum-capacity crowd at the press screening, with scores of journalists shut out. The film starts off decent enough, the rural southern yarn's opening slightly reminiscent of a Sundance winner from years back, 'Undertow.' Fanning is Lewellen, a radiant tween who passes the time by playing doctor with her best bud Buddy and dreaming of becoming the next Elvis Presley (a girl can dream, can't she?).
The King is coming to town, and Lewellen will do anything to score tickets, which lands her in the most undesirable of circumstances. It's by no means painless, but the rape, by a pimply-faced milkman, is quick. I'll leave it up to y'all to debate the moral issues surrounding this scene (are you really telling me Fanning isn't at least 21 by now?) but it doesn't bode well for the sensitivity of the subject that Fanning also spends a large chunk of the movie in her drawers. As hard as the rape scene was to watch, I found more disturbing where the film would head for the subsequent hour. We'll leave it at "all the wrong places" as the film's overbearing "snakes in the grass" metaphor somehow leads to snakes, literally, everywhere. It seems like every character in the film gets bitten as the plot turns more and more excruciating. Sorry, but all I could think to myself: "Would somebody get these mutha f***in' snakes off this mutha f***in' farm?!"