Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane

Written by Laird Koenig
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Based on the novel by Laird Koenig

Rynn Jacobs...Jodie Foster
Mario...Scott Jacoby
Frank Hallet...Martin Sheen
Officer Migliorti...Mort Shuman

Rynn Jacobs and her poet father Lester have recently moved into a nice rented house in a small New England town. Rynn is a headstrong, fiercely independent girl; some might say so independent that she doesn't even need parenting. Which is probably a good thing, since her father is never anywhere to be found--the truth of which is a very dark secret that Rynn will protect at any cost.

It's Halloween night, and Rynn's 13th birthday, when there's a knock on the door. It's Frank Hallet, the landlady's son, who also happens to be a known pedophile. He's got his sights set on Rynn, and although he's interrupted that night, he's not a man who gives up easily.

Mario (The Magician) is an older boy who finds himself ensnared by Rynn's charisma, becoming a participant in her epic deception, and, at times, hero. This forms a very strong bond between the two, and within days they go from friendship to romance.

Jodie Foster and Scott Jacoby both put in solid performances as the young leads, and Mort Shuman as the kind-hearted policeman was great as well. It was without a doubt Martin Sheen who stole the show, though, with a convincing portrayal of a psychotic predator.

This is definitely the kind of flick you don't see much of any more, one which pushes the envelope of convention. The portrayal of pedophilia and adolescent sexuality would surely be disturbing to some, although it's handled as tastefully as possible without ever becoming exploitative.

Except for ONE scene: about 75 minutes in, Rynn and Mario have sex for the first time. Although the act itself is not depicted, there is a completely unnecessary scene where Rynn undresses, exposing her breasts and buttocks. I'm a red blooded male, so I don't make it a habit to complain about a little T&A--necessary or not--but to showcase the body of a child in a sexual manner in a film intended to disparage pedophilia sends mixed messages to the audience. And yes, I'm fully aware that this was actually Jodie's older sister standing in, but my point remains the same.

Despite this singular scene of questionable taste, this remains an amazing and powerful flick. It may be a bit too slowly paced for some viewers, but the performances alone should keep most of you riveted. For a little taste of the Old Vs. New, watch it back to back with Hard Candy.

Rated PG
100 Minutes

"Don't give in and play their game. Fight them any way you have to. Survive!"

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