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Child of God 2014
Description: A dispossessed, violent man's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with several another ties, Ballard descends to the lvl of a cave dweller as he falls deeper into crime and degradation.
Released: 20 Aug 2014 Director: James Franco Writers: James Franco (screenplay), Vince Jolivette (screenplay), Cormac McCarthy (novel) Actors: Scott Haze, Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack, Steve Hunter Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
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Child of God Reviews:

I sat still after the United States premiere of James Franco's "Child of God" at the Fresh York Movie Festival, not as much contemplating whether or not it was nice as I was considering whether or not I liked it. Mostly real to the Cormac McCarthy novel on which it was based, the movie follows the cloistered and violent existence of Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) who lives isolated in the woods of Tennessee committing crimes of the most grotesque caliber. I won't tell much more about the plot another than the fact that the sadistic actions shown on screen evoke an uneasy humor, a disturbing essence of comical brutality. To tell the least, this film is not for the queasy or the fainthearted. You will squirm.Organization:James Franco decided to organize the movie into three acts, clearly distinguished from one other by game cards. While the producer argued this was done to manifest the passage of time, I felt it had no such effect. To add to this distortion of time and space, scenes are executed as vignettes. There's a constant transition fading in and out of the action, not only prompting confusion as to how much time passes between every scene, but also distracting the audience from the plot by means of excessive filmmaking. Some scenes exist solely for the purpose of hero development while others seem to have no function at all. The relevant vignettes are strung together by a consistently distressed brain. While this structure may detract from the linear storyline, it instead leaves more up to interpretation and imagination. No number of scenes can embody the real insanity of Lester Ballard, we can only imagine what madness gotta be going on between the fades. Performances:Scott Haze's performance as Lester Ballard is probably the most memorable and noteworthy aspect of the film. Haze, who lived alone in caves and lost 45 pounds to prepare for this dynamic and challenging role, brilliantly expresses the complex lunacy of Ballard. He adjusted his voice to a barely comprehensible Tennessee accent and habitually licks his lips and bares his teeth, related to Heath Ledger's Joker. Admitting that he channeled troubles from his own past when confronting the character, Haze often appears ignorant and childlike, constantly screaming and salivating, a repulsive portrait of a boy bore from nature's womb. While sometimes funny, his interactions with his victims are unsettling yet strangely amorous. Just like in the writing of Cormac McCarthy, the audience lacks any sympathy for Ballard, for it's nearly impossible to relate to him. Franco isn't looking for your sympathy, he wants nothing more than your intrigue and attention. To witness Haze is to observe an animal, wild, vicious, and savage. The only another notable performance is that of Tim Blake Nelson testing Sheriff Fate. He conducted the role with a mediated honesty, constructing as realistic a hero as possible and standing out within the frame, even with minimal screen time.Technicalities:All things considered, the technical aspects of the movie are quite impressive. Funded out of James Franco's own pocket, the film looks and sounds nice considering its modest budget. The cinematography of the rural Tennessee landscape is eerily beautiful, shot hand-held on a handful of Canon 5Ds. The desaturated and gritty colors add an appropriate rustic feel to the film, further enhancing the forest terrain. The original music, although not particularly memorable, suits the setting well. Furthermore, the nameless narration was real to McCarthy's technique and certainly added to the tone of the film, keeping the audience careful all the same. Overall, the movie's unsensational filmmaking is entirely fitting, ensuring the horrors on screen are ever more explicit, ever more real.Conclusion:You can tame the land, but you can't tame a man. "Child of God" is a commentary about the dispossessed in an incestuous homeland. Littered with existential imagery and dialogue, the movie offers a respectful and honest rendering of the novel. While I may not accept with some storytelling elements and approaches, Franco still manages to receive the mission across and deliver a message, a testament to rejection, violence, and humanity. The movie is definitely worth a watch if you can stomach it and works as a cogent visual supplement to the novel. I look forward to seeing more James Franco adaptations in the future.


When word broke out that James Franco, wannabe wunderkind who has taken to adapting classic American literature to the large screen to, well, mixed results, would be adapting my favourite author's work, I prickled with righteous indignation. I don't care much for Franco and indeed search him to be a jack of all trades but indeed master of none: he is a subpar actor, his writing leaves a LOT to be desired, and his direction feels a tiny too over-reliant on flashy tics that add an unnecessary layer of pretension to the proceedings. And here he is, adapting the work of the master: Cormac McCarthy.At first, Franco announced he would be tackling McCarthy's masterpiece, the ultraviolent scalp- hunter saga "Blood Meridian", but after a while, he decided to slash his teeth on a smaller -- but by no means lesser -- work of ol' Cormac's. And this is how he came to deliver "Child of God" onto the masses.Despite its brevity, "Child of God" is by no means an available novel: it's lean, mean and has a soul blacker than night. The novel is just like its protagonist, Lester Ballard, a loner who skulks about the Tennessee backwoods like a dog suffering the early onset of rabies, indulging in varying degrees of vicious activities, from assault to necrophilia to, eventually, murder. Ballard is not your typical protagonist, and yet the method Cormac McCarthy approached him, he was made both revolting and at the same time strangely empathetic, as he managed to submerge the reader into Ballard's festering brain. "A kid of God much like yourself" is how McCarthy's opening lines describe Ballard, signifying that the madness and malice that ferments within the boy is a seed to be found in any of us. And despite its grim premise, "Child of God" is astoundingly, gut-bustingly funny, like the worst sort of dead-baby joke.Unfortunately, I feel that Franco has missed the levity, instead emphasizing the straight serial- assassin premise. This isn't to tell that Franco doesn't hew close to the novel; if anything, he is a tiny too faithful, even relying on having blocks of text from the novel testing out on the screen. It's an admirable slice of avant-garde, even if I feel that Franco is forgetting the first rule of filmmaking: show, don't tell. Even though McCarthy's prose is magic, Franco should've known (as the Coen Brothers and John Hillcoat knew before him) that McCarthy's words can be translated visually to bring the same harrowing, to-the-bone effect.That said, Franco does present a nice deal of passion for the material. But even beyond the test of McCarthy's words, the most crucial aspect of an adaptation of "Child of God" is the boy who will be testing Lester Ballard. And in this film, Ballard is played not by Franco, but by his buddy and frequent collaborator Scott Haze. Whether or not you approve of Haze's performance, you can't tell he doesn't go for broke in his portrayal of Ballard. Haze's Ballard is beyond laconic; he speaks in strangled, guttural inarticulations that sound almost caveman-like. I do think that there are times that he lays it on a bit too thick, and I think his drooling, leering presence lacks any of the bizarre charm that made Ballard such a fascinatingly funny hero in the book. Haze plays Ballard like a "Deliverance" refugee, and while it isn't terrible work on its own, I do feel that Haze is a bit too superficial in his take on one of McCarthy's best creations. He makes up for it in intensity, though, must give him that.It also doesn't support that Franco's movie has a cheap aesthetic to it, lacking any of the grim Gothic atmosphere of the book. It's my largest trouble with Franco as a director: he has no true idea of effective mise-en-scene, instead opting to mission the camera and allow things play, cutting an odd times that feel far too arrhythmic to be deliberate. Much like last year's interesting-but- too-shallow "As I Lay Dying", Franco gets the storyline right but says it in the most simple, A-to-B- to-C method possible. It's worth the watch for Haze's performance (and also for Tim Blake Nelson, who feels like he should've featured in any and each Cormac McCarthy movie before this), but it only serves to prove that we're lucky that we dodged a "Blood Meridian" adaptation by James Franco.


Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) is a disturbed boy living in the rural mountains of Tennessee in the 60s. His father killed himself and his mother ran away. His father's property is auctioned off and he becomes a recluse. He gets in problem with Sheriff Fate (Tim Blake Nelson) after he struggled with a drunken woman. He steals and is a general nuisance. He runs across a young couple dead in their car. He has sex with the dead woman and steals her body away.I think this is the only film where a hero is now taking a dump. I've got to tell that it's disturbing and gross. It sets the tone for the entire movie. Scott Haze is terrific in his performance. The main trouble is that the film is uninvolving. After awhile, Lester's insanity feels repetitive and lifeless. His isolation infiltrates into the movie. This film needs more time for Sheriff Fate. I also wonder why the sheriff can't place him away longer and how terrible the dead body smells. These are the tiny things that nag at me when the film stops being compelling. James Franco's directions are workable but they need to energize the plot more.



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