PALM TREES AND POWER LINES
(director/writer: Jamie Dack; screenwriters: Audrey Findlay/story by Dack; cinematographer: Chananun Chotrungroj; editor: Christopher Radcliff; cast: Lily McInerny (Lea), Jonathan Tucker (Tom), Gretchen Mol (Sandra), Lily Colliasn (Emma), Quinn Frankel (Amber), Auden Thornton (Katie), Armani Jackson (Patrick), Kenny Johnston (Jimmy); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Leah Chen Baker, Jamie Dack: Neon Heart; 2022)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The debut feature of female director Jamie Dack, who uses her own story, who co-writes it with screenwriter Audrey Findlay, is a disturbing one involving the sexual exploitation of an under-aged girl.
The bored 17-year-old high school student Lea (Lily McInerny), who lives in California with a neglectful, sexually active, single real-estate mother (Gretchen Mol). Her dad abandoned the family a long time ago.
Lea hangs out with a crew of stoner friends, and though smart is confused about what she’s doing.
The handsome 34-year-old Tom (Jonathan Tucker) spots Lea one night in the parking lot of a diner and offers her a ride home. They hook up again, and the smoothie older predator tells her he operates an auto repair shop, Tom knows how to play the needy minor, giving her the respect and love she always craved while slowly seducing her until he gets her in his motel room.
You know nothing good can become of this ill-advised relationship, and in its last act we get to see what the creeps agenda is and how he has manipulated the vulnerable girl.
The performances are realistic. The film (with a lousy title) is well-executed. Though a familiar story, it’s gripping and its shocker ending leaves us with a bad taste.
It played at Sundance Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 2/3/2022 GRADE: B