donderdag 8 juni 2017

100 Movie Challenge 2017 - # 74: An American Crime

Director: Tommy O’Haver
Genre: Crime/ Drama
Runtime: 98 minutes
Year: 2007
Starring: Catherine Keener, Ellen Page, Ari Graynor, James Franco, Evan Peters, Bradley Whitford

Description: The true story of suburban housewife Gertrude Baniszewski (Catherine Keener), who kept a teenage girl (Ellen Page) locked in the basement of her Indiana home during the 1960s.

Review: The call it the most horrible crime ever committed in Indiana. In 1965, Sylvia Likens’ dead body was found in the house of Getrude Baniszewski. Baniszewski was suffering from a depression and she molested and starved Sylvia. And with that, she also convinced her own kids and other neighborhood kids, to hurt Sylvia as well. During the trial, Baniszewski claimed that she wasn’t responsible for anything that happened to Sylvia. Luckily the jury didn’t buy that and she was sentenced for life.
Director Tommy O’Haver took the transcripts from the court case and used it as an inspiration for this film. Sylvia and her sister Jenny are the daughters of carnival travelers. When they have to take another trip, they decide to leave their kids with Getrude Baniszewski. She is a mother of seven and she could use the money. The oldest daughter, Paula, tells Sylvia a secret. Because Paula is afraid that her mother will find out, she tells a lie. Sylvia has to pay for this and she is beaten and starved and put in the basement.
The movie switches between the court room and the flashbacks of the happenings. Towards the end, we get a ‘surprise twist’, which wasn’t necessary. Because we all know the ending already.
The film is strong because of the performances by Catherine Keener and Ellen Page, but also Ari Graynor and Bradley Whitford. We don’t find out about the why and how of the terrible act. Especially why so many good children decide to also hurt Sylvia. As a viewer we don’t get an answer to that question.
Tommy O’Haver managed to tell Sylvia Likens story pretty well, although the film supports on the performances by two great actresses. The film is not explicit and horrific enough to be a horror film and it misses depth to be an intelligent thriller. But the fact that this is a true story, will give the viewer a slap in the face.

Rating: 3/ 5

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