Beginning promisingly as a darkly comic and witty social satire a la American Beauty
, Nick Guthe
's Mini's First Time
unfortunately degenerates into a sexed-up version of a Law & Order
episode. This modern-day film noir about a sultry teen teaming with her stepfather to get rid of her mother boasts an uncommon stylization and some first-rate comic performances. But its provocative setup is undercut by its lengthy depiction of an all-too-familiar game of cat and mouse between the culprits and a dogged detective.
The film recently had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was picked up for theatrical distribution.
Nikki Reed ("thirteen") plays the title role of Mini, a hot high-schooler who has devoted herself to pursuing new experiences or, as she puts it, "firsts." She has plenty of time and money to accomplish this, as she has little in the way of parental attention from her sex- and drug-obsessed mother, Diane (Carrie-Anne Moss), or her neglectful stepfather, Martin (Alec Baldwin
Things become a bit more complicated when Mini decides as a lark to try her hand at high-class hooking. In the process, she winds up servicing the oblivious Martin, who is horrified when he learns who she is shortly thereafter. But not so horrified that he doesn't wind up having a torrid affair with his stepdaughter under his wife's nose.
Mini begins playing mind games on her increasingly distraught mother in the hopes of driving her to a mental institution. But things soon get out of hand, and the mother winds up dead. While attempting to dodge the ever increasing suspicions of the investigating detective (a nicely underplaying Luke Wilson), the pair's relationship begins to unravel.
There is a lot to appreciate in the film, from the screenplay's wittily provocative dialogue and situations to the visual stylization with which the filmmaker infuses the proceedings. The first-rate cast delivers some of their best work in ages: Moss is a comic revelation as the high-strung mother; Baldwin provides surprisingly complex emotional shadings to what could have been a stock character; and Reed, in addition to being devastatingly alluring, displays a strong presence as the precocious Mini. In a smaller role as a too-nosy neighbor, Jeff Goldblum
uses his smarmy persona to hilarious effect.
Too bad, then, that the film eventually succumbs to the sort of cliched plotting that wouldn't be out of place in any of the police procedurals dominating the television lineup.
Mini's First Time
Bold Films/Trigger Street Prods.
Director-screenwriter: Nick Guthe
Producers: Edward Bass
, Evan Astrowsky
, Kevin Spacey
, Dana Brunetti
Executive producers: Michel Litvak
, Gary Michael Walters
, Dan Grodnik
Cinematographer: Dan Stoloff
Editor: Michael Ruscio
Production designer: Linda Burton
Costume designer: Johanna Argan
Martin: Alec Baldwin
Mini: Nikki Reed
John Garson: Luke Wilson
Diane: Carrie-Anne Moss
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 91 minutes