Young Ones (2014)
Starring Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning, and Kodi Smit-McPhee
Directed by Jake Paltrow
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
Director and screenwriter Jake Paltrow's Young Ones takes place in the future, but feels squarely rooted in the past. With some unique, odd, and retro cinematic and cinematographic choices, the visual landscape of Young Ones unfortunately overtakes the rather lukewarm and surprisingly emotionally empty story.
Taking place in the not-so-distant future when water is a scarce and precious commodity, Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) lives in the dry and barren Midwest with his two children Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Mary (Elle Fanning) -- the former who travels with his father around the land as a traveling salesman/barterer and the latter who stays at home and cooks, cleans, and harbors a growing animosity for her dad for essentially being shackled in the house. Mary's moments of happiness center around her boyfriend Flem Lever (Nicholas Hoult), but Flem gets upset when Ernest wins an auction for a simulated donkey (not as weird as it sounds) that Flem feels was rightly his causing the young man to ponder ways to get back at Mary's father.
Unfortunately, the story is quite slim and even a relatively short run time can't save it. Despite some solid acting from all four of the main actors, I found next to no connection to the emotional plights of the characters. Considering that Shannon, Hoult, Fanning, and Smit-McPhee have all been pretty solid in the past, I have to think that the fault therefore lies in the script which leaves their characters languishing in a dusty landscape. While certainly having moments of uniqueness, Young Ones just lacks the spark and vigor to really make it compelling.
The RyMickey Rating: C-