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Sunday, August 9, 2015

BIG SKY -- Movie Review by Porfle

What is "agoraphobia"? No, you're thinking of "angoraphobia", the unreasoning fear of very soft, comfortable sweaters.

"Agoraphobia" is the fear of wide-open spaces, and poor young Hazel has it real bad, so of course she's going to end up in the biggest, most wide-open space of all with bad guys after her in BIG SKY (2015).

Hazel's condition is clearly a bone of contention between her and her weary mom Dee (Kyra Sedgwick, THE CLOSER), who encourages her to try and inch her way out of the shell she hides in (she refuses to even leave her bedroom and come downstairs).

Hazel's snarky emo attitude would definitely tend to be wearying after a few years, I'm sure, despite her really being in bad shape mentally and emotionally.  She spends her time at her bedroom desk scribbling and making crude origami birds, and has OCD that makes her carefully line her pills up by size before gulping them down. 

While Bella Thorne (Disney's "Shake It Up", AMITYVILLE: THE REAWAKENING) rarely exerts herself in the role--at least, not early on--she does manage to convey how deeply messed up Hazel is, and we kinda feel for her.

We feel for Dee too, whose single-mom love life is severely cramped by her wacko daughter, and we don't blame her when she enrolls Hazel at a treatment facility in the desert.  Kyra Sedgwick, who is entering middle age very nicely as an actress, adds a slightly desperate edge to Dee's motherly devotion that we can empathize with.

Presently a nice man comes by in a van that's equipped with a special hiding place in the back for Hazel to nestle into while he picks up a few other passengers who are going her way.  These include two men and a sticky-fingered kleptomaniac named Vicky (Jodi Lynn Thomas). 

What happens next is a real eye-opener, and catches us up to the pre-titles preview of the disabled van stopped in the middle of the desert with a bloody hand shakily clutching out the back door before being snatched back in.  This is Hazel, the last passenger still ambulatory after whatever happened happened, and--as you probably guessed--it's up to the girl with the severe agoraphobia to venture out into the desert--the desert with bad guys still running around in it, that is--to try and get help for her badly wounded mom.

The rest of the film is languidly paced but gripping, with Hazel struggling to overcome her fear as the desert threatens to engulf her.  The bad guys, including Jesse (Frank Grillo, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER) and his addlebrained, trigger-happy brother Pru (Aaron Tveit, LES MISERABLES), who have kidnapped Vicky for some sinister reason, go on the hunt for Hazel to eliminate her as a witness.

Meanwhile, Hazel runs into a genial (and, thankfully, armed) couple who live in the desert and offer to help.  This will lead to a final shootout that will drive the film's body count up even higher and end things on a nail-biting note.

The film is thoughtfully directed by Jorge Michel Grau and photographed with a slightly disorienting dreamlike quality that often puts the viewer into Hazel's off-kilter mindset.

The DVD from eOne Films will be available September 22.  The film can be viewed on VOD on August 14th.  I watched a barebones screener so I can't comment on tech details or extras. 

Atmospheric, moody, and suspenseful, BIG SKY is satisfying moviemaking that's intelligently done, which, these days, is worth going out of your way for.

Buy the DVD at
Opens in New York, Los Angeles and on VOD August 14, 2015


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