I collect movies...ALL kinds of movies and have several thousand in my collection...which means I see thousands of movies every year. I'd never heard of "An American Crime" until Netflix put it into my queue as a recommendation. I knew absolutely nothing about the film except for the cast. I'd watch Catherine Keener do a Dairy Queen commercial and give her a standing ovation. Forty minutes into the film, I became aware that I was clutching the arms on my chair. I was short-winded as I'd been holding my breath but didn't know it. I almost cheated and ran the movie <more>
fast forward just to see how it would end as I was terrified by what I was viewing. This movie should have been hailed by critics and had long lines outside the box office. Ellen Page and Catherine Keener were superb as was the entire cast...not even a 'walk-on' was miscast. James Franco, stepped out of the box to play an unlikeable character as did Jeremy Peter Pan Sumpter. If you love good movies, heavy drama, and fantastic acting...this is one to put on your MUST SEE list. When the movie finally did end. I just cut off my TV set. I couldn't watch anything of equal magnitude, no matter what was showing on any channel. One of the best films of all time...and the most horrifying in my entire collection...bar none!
A FANTASTIC/HIGHLY DISTURBING FILM - Everyone MUST see this film (by sinnerofcinema)
I was at the world premiere of this film at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. I read the blurb in the program book, but had no clue what I was in for. The film starts out with a girl talking. After you watch the film you realize, it is a dead girl talking. I had no idea who Sylvia Likens was much less what she had endured as an abused 16 year old until I saw this film. Ten to twenty minutes into the film I could feel several knots in my stomach and an exhorbitant amount of rage because of the images I was watching. This film is heavy and hard to watch. So heavy that chaos errupted in the movie <more>
theatre when an audience member, who sat behind me, collapsed. This was not an elderly person I might ad. He, yes "HE" was probably between 25-28. At first I heard people whispering that an elderly lady suffered a heart attack, then people started to scream for the lights to be turned on and for the projectionist to stop the film. The lights were turned on and the film was stopped. It almost seemed like someone had placed a bomb in the theatre because people where heading for the exit, others where frightened and did not know what to do, and others just sat in their chair waiting for the film to continue. Of course, the next day, this was the talk of the town. Back to the film. I have never seen a girl tortured in the ways Sylvia had. I love disturbing films... I watch French film all the time...but I have never seen anything like this. And I must say, after watching the film, I went back to my condo to look up the case on the internet and must report that the film is not exploitative. As a matter of fact, it places the events quiet mildly compared to what really happened. Even though this movie is very unpleasant to watch, it is important every American and foreigners alike watches this film so they will never forget what children are exposed to when abused. How little power they have and how they really depend on their caretakers to "take care" of them until they reach an age they can fend for themselves. We hear these cases on television almost every day of a child being abducted. But in this case, the child was not abducted, she, Sylvia, and her sister were abandoned by her parents. I believe her parents got off easy. I was so filled with rage, both her parents deserved the same torture and faith Sylvia did. They made the conscious choice of bringing this girl into the world and they'd dumped her off to strangers. I'm sure they never imagined what would happened to their daughter. A lot for this case is to blame for the times they lived in. Apparently Indiana and other mid west areas where evangelical and believed in corporal punishment in those days and when they heard the torturous screams of Sylvia neighbors just thought she was getting what she deserved by being a bad girl. In there eyes she was being "corrected". Besides the sick lady that took care of Sylvia, the seven children that lived with her unfortunately did not know any better as they too join in the torture fest as they called upon other neighborhood kids to have fun with Sylvia by torturing her. I read on the internet that a few of the neighborhood kids to helped torture Sylvia are still alive and kicking today. One is 58 years old, he was 15 at the time, and apparently just recently lost his job after word about this film and his involvement in the case turned up. I hope this film helps to shed light to all of those crud of the earth who are still left on this earth living who tortured that girl when they were young and stupid so they will never forget what they did. I hope someone will always recognize them walking on the street to remind them how much of a low life and human waste of a person they are. They may be the brothes, now fathers, loving husbands and whatever else...but they will never stop being monsters rooted in evil who destroyed a spirit for their amuzement. Too bad they can't be tried again, but there is always the judge and jury of public opinion which Im sure as long as we know who you are, you will always be reminded of your heinous crimes. I applaud the filmmaker and actors for making such as exquisite, well acted, directed and visually engaging film. Hopefully after you have seen this film, you too will never forget Sylvia.
This movie was good, acting was excellent, filming was excellent and you are quickly drawn into the story so that all around you is no longer there. Yet when you see the things that happen to this poor girl your eyes don't want to stop watching but in the back of your mind you're thinking why? Then you remember during portions of this movie that it was based on actual events and when the credits roll you're hit with this overwhelming since of sadness and grief that makes you want to tell your parent or parents that you love them and that you're thankful for them. While your <more>
mind processes what you've just seen it's hard because it's so shocking and real and you want to shout at the top of your lungs SAVE THIS GIRL! I guess it could just be me but it had powerful emotional effect on me. I've seen other movies about true stories but other than Schindler's List nothing had such an impact until now. There was a Lifetime movie that made me angry and sickened me that turned out was fictional that I wished they would have said before the movie began its not based on actual events. My advice is if you think you can handle the emotions you'll feel after this movie then watch it. If you don't think you can, then watch it with another person. The overall sad and disturbing fact was this movie was based on a true story. I guess that makes it all the more scary.
A non-fiction horror film, hard to watch but important (by larry-411)
I attended the world premiere of "An American Crime" at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Among the several decidedly downbeat films I saw this past week, this one was by far the hardest to watch. But something about it is compelling, like craning your neck to see what horrors can be spotted at the scene of a car crash. You know it can't be anything pretty, yet you can't take your eyes off it. Perhaps it was knowing that the film is, in fact, based on a true story. The opening courtroom scenes and disclaimer that "actual transcripts" were used make that clear. <more>
There's something about a "true crime" drama that triggers a desire to sit through whatever terrifying images lie ahead. And the images conjured up here are bone-chilling.In 1965, Betty Likens Romy Rosemont and her husband Lester Nick Searcy decided it was best to leave their two daughters with a neighbor while they went off with a traveling carnival. So Sylvia Likens Ellen Page and her sister Jennie Fae Hayley McFarland settled in with the Baniszewski clan. And what a clan it was. Mother Gertrude Catherine Keener already had five of her own in tow, and now she added two more. What happened then, well documented in the record, is now played out for us with horrifying realism.This is Keener and Page's film, despite the large ensemble cast assembled for the story. And both actors create frighteningly devastating portrayals of characters we still can't quite believe really endured these horrors. Mommie Dearest doesn't hold a candle to Keener's Gertrude, and Page is as heartbreaking as any victim I've seen in modern cinema. Both turn in award-winning performances that left me with chills.In addition to the numerous family members, an assortment of school chums has the opportunity to get involved in some way. Coy Hubbard Jeremy Sumpter is the boyfriend of one of the Baniszewski brood. Known to most from 2003's "Peter Pan," we can't help but feel that he will be the hero here. Teddy Lewis Michael Welch , is an enigma from the start. One of our most prolific yet underrated young actors today, Welch is perfectly cast as the boy whose blood runs hot or cold depending on the prevailing winds. Other notables include The West Wing's Bradley Whitford as prosecutor Leroy K. New.This is a period piece set in the mid-60s, and the costumes, sets, and palette of colors effectively evokes that era to a T. Much of the film's look can be attributed to the cinematography of Byron Shah, who had two films here at Sundance his "The Go-Getter" was one of my favorite film' at this year's festival ."An American Crime" is not for everyone. It's a horror film that isn't a work of fiction. If it was from the hand of Stephen King it would be scary and delicious. Instead it's scary and nauseating. Yet it deserves the label "important," because the subject matter is worthy of discussion. And that's because the horrors exposed in this film are still occurring today. That's the real crime.
What a tragedy that I will never have an opportunity to see this film in a theatre. The cast alone that includes the currently very popular Ellen Page should have merited something better than Saturday night Showtime.Because of this, the impact will be blunted, however even in its limited presentation, the film was stunning and will easily end up among my favorites for the year. The quiet contemplation of the mood and the selection of a hideous story from post-Beaver Cleaver trivial innocence, pre-late 1960s tumult creates a moment so far outside our expectations of this nonsense daily on <more>
24/7 news channels that its impact nails you full frontal.I particularly like some of the discussions of this film that complain that it was not graphic enough and because of this, didn't hit people 'in the gut.' This alone warrants a short meditation.To paraphrase one of the best commentaries I've read on this thing, there is an inner sadist in all of us. America's history of violence and tolerance of violence just gives license to bring it out more often and intensely. And despite our strong sense of individuality and our braggadocio about freedom, we have this very strange conformist streak. The confluence of these two conflicted tendencies can lead to bad places.This film meditates subtly and, yes, beautifully on all of this. By eschewing potential excesses that some complaining viewers apparently desired, the story puts us in a disturbing place where we might not suspend disbelief and acknowledge the raw emotions as something potentially alive within.I believe it is this troubling recognition of possibility that branded this film in various ways keeping it from ever being seen in a theatre. By exposing it first on pay TV, the unwashed masses might easily mistake it for a poorly done version of sensational MSNBC serial killer crap. Stuff like this is pleasurable to many because it lets them wallow 'down with the sickness' while pretending they are above it.There is a wonderful moment in the story when the almost involuntarily sadistic mother utters 'there are things in life we have to do whether we like them or not.' I can't help but think this was borrowed from the sadistic father figure in the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' a film that many wanted this to be so as to give them some form of absolution from their own demons 'An American Crime' exposes.
A very important film that shouldn't be ignored (by Phantasm01)
Not many films make me feel sick to my stomach and not many make me feel such a profound sadness that I'm helpless to do anything but cry. An American Crime chronicles the startling and horrific events that led to the death of sixteen year old Sylvia Likens. The story we're told comes directly from the court transcripts in the case of Baniszewski vs. The State of Indiana. As the story unfolds we slowly spiral from a normal, small town world populated with youthful innocence to one of absolute and inexplicable horror.The story of the events that led up to Likens' death is short and <more>
tragic, with many people to fault, including her own parents and sister. Her parents negligently entrusted her and her little sister's care to a woman they had only met once. This woman, Gertrude Baniszewski, was mother to a brood of children and accepted Sylvia and her sister into her home for the simple fact that she needed the money the Likens were offering. But Baniszewski wan't fit to care for the Likens' daughters and within a few months, Sylvia had become the victim of Gertrude's escalating abuse. Sylvia eventually became a prisoner in Baniszewski's basement for an excruciating 27 days, where she was abused and tortured by Baniszewski, her children and also a number of other neighborhood children. How could this have happened? How could so many people be involved in such a horrible crime? How could her own sister not have gone to the police before it was too late? After Sylvia died as a result of her beatings, Baniszewski's was found guilty of her crimes and sentenced to life in prison. Her children and the others involved were also found guilty and sentenced, each one eventually serving two years in prison. While Baniszewski's crimes are unforgivable, the thing I personally found most disturbing was how her example led to her children's and the other children's acts of cold, cruel, brutality.The world we are introduced to in AAC is not sensational, on the contrary, it is simple, ordinary, common and comfortable. The production design and cinematography work in harmony, lulling the viewer into believing they are witness to a more innocent time and place and as the story builds the Norman Rockwell veneer slowly begins to chip away until it is displaced by a world of suffocating doom. The resulting effect is that AAC gets under our skin and disturbs us in a profound way since these crimes could have been committed in our neighborhood, by our neighbors and possibly by people we knew and trusted. Most disturbing of all is the realization these crimes could have involved us.It would be easy to demonize Baniszewski and all the others involved in Likens death, but writer/director Tommy O'Haver chooses to humanize them instead. In doing so their horrible acts of abuse and torture linger and beg the recurring question: how could they have done this? When we see the faces of the children in court, we don't see the faces of psychopaths, we see innocent children with no explanation for their actions. Only Baniszewski herself comes across as a detached, delusional and remorseless criminal and Catherine Keener has to be applauded for somehow managing to add complexity and insight to someone guilty of such crimes. Keener's subtle performance aside, the standout in this movie is Ellen Page who breaks our heart when we watch her stripped of her innocence.Before AAC, Page drew raves for her performances in Hard Candy and Juno. In both those films she played a precocious, smart assed hipster who had the world on the tip of her little finger. Here Page plays Likens as a sensitive, kind and considerate sixteen year old and when the world comes crashing down upon her, the suffering she endures is heartbreaking and convincingly rendered by Page. I'm sure few will agree with me, but Page's breakthrough performance isn't in Juno, it's in An American Crime.
I thought we were just teaching her. (by lastliberal)
While everyone was watching Juno, Ellen Page was making a much more important film. Those who do not have a background in child abuse, will find this very disturbing. It is a horror film that displays what goes on all over America, and is not always noticed, or, if noticed, is not always reported.The film stars Catherine Keener as a mother that is overwhelmed by the fact that she has a half dozen kids to feed and little money coming in. He husband is not providing support, and neither is the father of her last child. Have to supervise her brood with a drug problem albiet a legal one , is <more>
overwhelming.When she is unable to handle the fact that her eldest is getting out of control and following in her footsteps, she selects one of the girls she is caring for to scapegoat. In other words, this girl Ellen Page will bear the scars and marks that she can't place on her own children. She shifts the blame from her and her children to Sylvia. Sylvia soon becomes the target of all the neighborhood children, believing that they are "teaching her" to be good. The adults in the neighborhood hear the screams coming from the house as she is burned with cigarettes and branded with a hot wire, and turn the other way.It is a hard film to watch, even for those of us who have seen the results many times. For those not exposed to this stain on America, it can be very traumatic. Be forewarned.
AN American CRIME is a problematic little reenactment of a real criminal case of child abuse dating back to 1965. The story is horrifying and while the film places the facts in our faces, the impact of the film is out of focus. This is due to the script that elects to glaze over the motivational aspects of a brutal crime in favor of attempting to investigate fully the mindset of both the perpetrator and the victims. Were it not for some sterling performances by Catherine Keener and Ellen Page this film might be easily dismissed: the strength of these actresses to overcome a weak script and <more>
manage to involve us is much to their credit as artists. Indiana, 1965, and Gertrude Baniszewski Catherine Keener is a 'borderline' single mother of several children who is asked to take care of Sylvia Ellen Page and Jennie Likens Hayley McFarland while the girls parents remain on the road as carnies, promising to send checks to help support their farmed out children. Gertrude is a woman of loose morals who adds babies to her large family during liaisons with young men like the itinerant Dennis James Franco . Gertrude takes in laundry to support her household and requires her young children to work toward the same goal. A friction develops between Sylvia and Jenny and the children by Gertrude's illicit adventures as well as covert sexual similarities surfacing in her children and at 'family meetings' Gertrude doles out punishment for Sylvia - punishment including cigarette burns, coke bottle insertions, branding etc. - all of which are undeserved and eventually lead to Sylvia's imprisonment in the basement where Gertrude and her children and their friends daily torture Sylvia. Eventually Sylvia dies and Gertrude and family are brought to court for charges of first-degree murder and variations thereof. The court proceedings under the leadership of lawyer Leroy K. New played by Bradley Whitford provide the story drivers as each allegation is then acted out by flashbacks until the verdicts are reached. Catherine Keener is superb as the deranged, maladaptive Gertrude and Ellen Page adds yet another feather to her cap in a role that in another actor's hands could have been over the top. Writer/director Tommy O'Haver the script was written with the aid of Irene Turner does manage to show us the facts of this atrocity yet fails to go inside the characters to give us the psychobiographies this film has the potential for illuminating. It may well repel some viewers, but it does bring to the forefront a crime that is all too common in this country. Grady Harp
sad film, good directing, worth watching. (by TheFemaleEdward)
This film was very sad, and the outcome; slightly unpredicted. It makes you look at the screen, confused and slightly horrified. The direction of the film is very good, somehow it makes you feel like you're involved, but like you cant be of any help, which I think reflects the feelings of the majority of the characters.The influence of the Catherine Keener's character on her children obviously has a different effect by the end of the film. It is a very touching film, as it forces you to see the strength it takes to protect your family, from evils that are affecting you, and evidently <more>
you, yourself.Ellen Page's Acting is on top-form in this film. She's very convincing. In fact, all the acting in this film is extremely good. And the amount of violence, isn't heavy at all, although some people find some scenes hard to watch. However, everything in the film, is crucial to the story. And ultimately, this is a story of a girl, who was stricken by misfortune. I believe her story was told well. But I'm sure there's more to it. Although, if hit by such grief, I wouldn't mind warning the world of such ill adventures.Overall: this film should be given a metaphorical, standing ovation. As there are so many things about this piece, good; however intense, bitter and sorrowful, it is definitely one worth watching.