Fierce People (2005) Poster


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A coming-of-age tale that's a complex, quirky treasure
larry-41116 October 2006
I attended a screening of "Fierce People" at the 2006 Woodstock Film Festival. I hesitate to label it a "premiere" of any sort, since it was shot in the spring of 2004 and had its world premiere at Tribeca in 2005. It played several festivals that year. Release seemed imminent, then it disappeared. Poof. Vanished. Or so it appeared to the film-going public. Rumors of a theatrical or DVD release have popped up now and then, but all proved unfounded. Then this screening was announced. Perhaps one can call it a "re-premiere?" It certainly felt as if I was witness to a buried treasure. And what a treasure it was.

I suppose one could characterize "Fierce People" as a coming-of-age drama. But it also has elements of comedy and tragedy, as well as mystery. And a bit of farce thrown in. In short, real life. That makes it hard to pigeonhole, which puts it more into the category of an indie as opposed to a Hollywood movie. But its high production values, big budget feel, and star caliber cast seem at odds with the indie label. So let's call it a hybrid. And, perhaps, that's why it's been "lost." It defies categorization.

Meet Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin), 15, whose father is absent. In fact, Finn has never known him. But he sees him and hears him via the collection of home movies sent from South America. Dad is a renowned anthropologist, and has made a name for himself by setting up shop with the Yanomani, the tribe of "Fierce People" who live to kill and, well, procreate. All their activities are built around those two "tasks," and Finn is captivated by it. Mom Liz (Diane Lane) is also somewhat absent. Although present physically, she is lost in a world of cocaine and alcohol. So Finn becomes an adult in his little solitary world with his reels of film.

One summer, Mom decides to drag Finn along with her into the wilds of New Jersey. A massage therapist, Mom has catered to a wealthy client, Ogden C. Osborne (Donald Sutherland, in a tour de force performance) and he has invited her for an extended house call at his palatial estate. Osborne's "tribe" includes an assortment of eccentric rich kids, servants, and village idiots among whom Finn will find himself part of his own anthropological study. Will his experience with Dad's films help him survive life as a visitor to this tribe? Will he be accepted? Or will he be seen as an outsider, concurrently struggling with his own identity as an adolescent? Such is the stuff of fairy tales, and I suppose this would be if not for the dark underbelly which director Griffin Dunne and writer Dirk Wittenborn have infused into this magnificent story.

With Anton Yelchin's voice-over, intercutting pieces of Dad's home movies, Finn must learn to go back to being the teenager he never really had a chance to be, stop being the parent to his Mom, allow newly-sober Mom to be parent to him, and learn responsibility on the way to adulthood the way it should have taken place all along. Yet he needs to make this transformation in a dangerous, dark world where playing with fire is folly to this fractured family.

This is, first and foremost, a story-driven film and Griffin Dunne emphasized as much in the intro to the film. He bought the rights to Wittenborn's novel even as it was being written, and Wittenborn's own screenplay comes to life in the hands of the masterful Dunne in a way that's a work of wonder.

This is also largely a character-driven film, and Sutherland has never been better. His star turn as Osborne stunned those around me and will likely leave you amazed as well. Diane Lane's character ultimately exhibits so many personalities that it's hard to imagine another actor pulling it off so well. She is breathtaking. But more than anything, "Fierce People" is Anton Yelchin's film. He has a long resume as a child actor but preciously little as a teen. Other than the little-known "House of D" (also a gem), he is best known as Byrd on TV's "Huff." In January, he will be seen in "Alpha Dog" (also sitting on the shelf since 2004, a film I saw at Sundance this year and in which he is the "heart and soul"). His performance here goes far beyond what one would expect from someone so young, and is nothing short of spectacular.

This complex, quirky film has remained out of sight long enough. "Fierce People" is a treasure filled with light and shadow, comedy and tragedy, joy and pathos, but mostly wonder.
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I liked it!
msdavamarie5 September 2008
I thought this was a very good movie. Someone said it was 'sick' so they couldn't watch it. I think if you realize its rated R then you will be prepared for the nudity and drug use. It is a good story and the acting is amazing. Just can't be a prude to appreciate it! Its basically about a mom who does drugs and wants to get clean so she calls a very wealthy old friend and he moves them to his estate and crazy things happen. I guess it is a drama. I am just so sick of people who don't like movies because of cursing or nudity. That is the world we live in. You obviously aren't comfortable with yourself if you can't see things like this movie. And it's rated R. So, that should tell you from the beginning that its not all peachy happy rainbows. I liked it. I think you will too!
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Very well acted
hinomoris4 March 2010
A brilliant and sensitive movie with interwoven plot lines. As a general warning, the movie turns quite dark about half way through. As sudden as it is, this is a change that I found fitting to the themes of the movie, particularly the comparison of the Ishkanani to the filthy rich, and (as is said by Finn at the end) how each person makes up the tribe, and how the whole tribe is reflected in each person.

Anton Yelchin (Finn Earl) is spectacular in this movie. He is probably best known as Chekov from Star Trek or Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, but he's been in a whole plethora of movies you've probably never heard of (Alpha Dog, which is another brilliant performance on Yelchin's part, House of D, Hearts in Atlantis, to name a few...) The point is that this kid really takes this movie and makes it his own. Other excellent performances from Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland are what takes this movie up a notch, from great to excellent.
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Intelligent and Enjoyable Movie
eastbergholt200214 October 2009
I really enjoyed Fierce People. I discovered the film by accident, searching through my On-Demand movie lists trying to find something interesting to watch. The film has an impressive cast and it quickly grabs your attention. The film's characters are smart and articulate and the story doesn't stick to the usual Hollywood rules.

The main protagonist is Finn, a precocious, but underprivileged 15 year old who spends his summer with the Osbourne family. Donald Sutherland plays the patriarch, Ogden C. Osborne, the seventh richest man in America. Diane Lane plays Finn's mother, a friend of Ogden who is also a habitual cocaine user and a slut. The Osbournes own a large estate and seems to live by their own rules. At first they seem charming and sophisticated but the film implies that the super-rich are different. They are used to getting their own way. The film is enjoyable mainly because it has crisp intelligent dialog, superb acting and a story which takes unexpected turns. It is also an R rated movie, so it's not entirely wholesome.

Anton Yelchin is believable and sympathetic in the demanding role of Finn. Sutherland and Diane Lane have never been better. Chris Evans is impressive as Osbourne's duplicitous and devious grandson. Kristen Stewart is good as the pretty grand daughter. High quality movie.
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What the hell just happened?
mattbaxter7227 January 2010
I literally have no idea how to rate this movie. It comes in two halves, and I quite liked both of them, but the two halves belong to completely different films. Have you ever been driving down a quiet country road near your house, taken a left turn and suddenly found yourself in Helmand Province, Afghanistan? That's what this movie is like - there's a tonal shift around the halfway mark that's so jarring, so out of place with what's gone before, that it left me utterly dumbfounded, staring at the screen, saying over and over 'That didn't really happen, did it?'

If I've got trouble with it, I can only take pity on the people who had to market this movie. It's a pretty light comedy for the first half - all wacky families, odd-but-cute kid taking his first steps towards manhood, that sort of thing, and it's all very well done. And at the centre of it all is Donald Sutherland, never better in the role of a patriarch who has made scads of money, but lost out in many other ways. It's light and frothy and amusing and - then. Then the event happens, and everything turns VERY dark indeed. The second half plays more like a socially conscious melodrama, with teenage pregnancy, class division and... other issues. It's good too, for what it is, but that seismic shift in the middle of the film makes it all pretty hard to stomach.

So do I recommend this movie or not? Hell, I don't know. Both its parts are very good, but they add up to a baffling whole. I realize that that isn't necessarily very helpful, but you probably ought to be warned that this has been marketed as a comedy, and an enjoyable coming of age movie. That's true, but only up until the halfway mark...
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Ex malo bonum
reneweddan6 October 2010
This movie is highly underrated. It isn't mainstream and it isn't predictable, which makes it unique and interesting.

The acting done in this film is raw and believable. Anton Yelchin, Diane Lane, Chris Evans, and Kristen Stewart all do well portraying their characters.

The film is about turning bad things into good fortune and has an interesting sociological plot. It's quirky and at times a bit unbelievable, but that's why it's great to have good actors. Not all movies can be the same, and this movie makes good use of that.

Enjoy the film for what it is, don't expect too much and you'll get much more than you'd imagine.

Rated 10 Stars due to the lack of lenient criticism.
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I saw this film at AFI, over a year ago and loved it!
james_mercel3 February 2007
I can't imagine why it hasn't been theatrically released yet. It's got a great ensemble cast, with Sutherland, Lane, and especially Chris Evans doing spectacular work. Wake up, studio execs!

The story is based upon the experiences of the author/screenwriter, growing up as the "poor kid" in an extremely affluent community, where class is everything, and makes a difference in every aspect of life, from clothing to justice.

During the film's Q&A, the author was asked about his experiences, and particularly what we don't know about the ultra-rich. He said they aren't stupid, they're very smart (as opposed to how they may portray themselves), they've got plans, and they are a threat!

In many ways, this film is extremely timely.
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Diane Lane gives an Oscar worthy performance in an Oscar worthy film.
McCormack725 April 2005
I was lucky enough to see this at this years Tribeca film festival. I was stunned by how well made and how entertaining this wonderful little film was. Director Griffin Dunne has done a great job assembling this film that has several characters and several story lines that blend so smoothly and seamlessly. The main story involves the family and it is very thought-provoking and entertaining story that involved the viewer in every scene. The film as a whole has credibility and integrity, yet still has that commercial edge - an "indie" movie for the masses if you like. The performances by the cast are all excellent but it is Diane Lane who shines the brightest. Diane Lane is simply sensational in this wonderful film and should be Oscar nominated. Early days I know, but Lane acts her socks off here.
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Muddled movie loses its way
Warning: Spoilers
In Fierce People, a sixteen-year-old boy (Anton Yelchin) is forced to forgo a summer with his dad observing tribes in South America (the fierce people) for a summer with his drug- and booze-dependent mom (Diane Lane) in upstate New York when she's hired as the full-time masseuse to a super-duper-rich man (Donald Sutherland). But the movie veers sharply from charming comedy to turgid melodrama and never truly finds its way. In spite of some spirited performances (particularly by Lane), Griffin Dunne's film doesn't really have an identity, and without a solid identity, it can be a tough movie to follow and enjoy.

Liz (Lane) and Finn (Yelchin) are a dysfunctional family living in New York. She's a cokehead and drunk who puts out for some of her masseuse clients (but she does have a degree in massage therapy). He's a good kid who sometimes enables her, because she's a great mom during those rare moments when she's not hammered. At any rate, fate intervenes and keeps Finn from seeing his dad, a renowned anthropologist, in the Southern Hemisphere; instead, he and his mom are schlepped to the Hamptons so she can give Ogden Osbourne (Sutherland) his daily rubdowns, and here Finn decides to observe a different kind of tribe, that of the filthy rich. Of course, he can't just observe, and he slowly ingratiates himself into Osbourne's fiefdom, befriending his grandson Bryce (Chris Evans, who looks like a young Stephen Baldwin) and falling in love with his granddaughter (Kristen Stewart, once the tyke from Panic Room). Liz and Finn are given a house and a car, and naturally the rumors fly about Liz's true relationship with Osbourne.

Most of the acting ranges from sweet (Yelchin) to a bit hammy (Sutherland, who even gets to sing), but it's Lane who truly stands out with a bravura, top-notch performance. Her Liz is intensely and simultaneously vulnerable and strong; she lives not for herself but for the love of her son, which has ebbed quite substantially in recent years. Liz has to do battle with her teen son, her own ambitions and self-confidence, and the suspicious eyes of Osbourne's family, particularly his daughter (Elizabeth Perkins), a bit of a lush in her own right. Lane is still exquisitely beautiful, and she carries herself with a fragile grace; she almost seems attainable to a normal person, in other words, not like a Star.

The movie covers some pretty strong subjects, from sexual awakenings, gun violence, major drug use (including acid), and murder, but often it feels like just a melting pot of weirdness, as if the protagonists were merely flitting from tragedy to tragedy; Finn is sort of a combination between Dean Moriarity and Homer Bailey. But unlike the wallflower Bailey, as played by Tobey Maguire, Yelchin's Finn is good and sincere, but he's proactive. He desperately wants his mom to get better, but he also wants things for himself, like a warm female. He's a smartass, but he's not some grinning idiot who's happy to take the kindness of others without offering anything in return.

Oh, and then there's the film's eventual villain, a person you'll spot a mile away, a good thirty minutes before his identity is revealed. The movie will ask, "Who could have done this?" and you'll reply, "That guy, over there. Duh." It's that obvious. At first, I thought that perhaps it was a little too obvious, that the movie would pull a switcheroo at the last minute. You know, a red herring to throw me off the scent. But, nope. Fraid not. It was that person all along. And that kind of annoyed me, because up until then I was sure that the movie was going to be tightly plotted, with some genuine twists tossed in. Sadly, no. And the ending is a little too clean for my tastes; I like my endings jagged, like a used sponge.
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Top-notch performances keep this spotty effort afloat
dallesmac7 December 2009
"Fierce People" is a quirky coming-of-age tale told through the dark lens of a learning that the lives of the very rich are really blackest comedy. Uneven direction and a spotty screenplay (based by the author on his novel) almost do this movie in. What saves it is a gallery of first-rate performances by a fine cast. The acting is uniformly excellent, which keeps the viewer from focusing on what is basically very familiar territory.

You have to hand it to Diane Lane. Her role as the alcoholic (apparently recovering) mom is poorly written and inconsistently conceived by the director. But she gives it all she's got (which is plenty) and her later scenes with her son (also well portrayed by Anton Yelchin) achieve a depth and emotional impact that is a great credit to both actors. That depth sure isn't in the script.

Donald Sutherland is in great form as the seventh richest man in American who brings New York City masseuse Lane and her teenage son to the wilds of richest New Jersey. As his granddaughter, Kristen Stewart shows why she has zoomed to stardom in the "Twilight" films and to critical acclaim in movies like "Adventureland." Not only does the camera love her, she pays it back in full with a performance here that is remarkable for its subtle depths. (Watch her face when she gets in the black Mercedes in the movie's final scene.) As the grandson, Chris Evans is vivid and effective. (The camera loves him too.) The rest of the cast is great too. But highest praise goes to Elizabeth Perkins as Sutherland's alcoholic daughter (and mother of those aforementioned children). It's a small role, but she really comes across as she comically portrays a lifetime of privilege and desperation.

Despite the fine performances, many scenes fall flat and slide into confusion. Some of this may be due to the poor audio recording (at least on the DVD). Some of this may also be due to the inconsistent emotional focus of the script (which really needed another couple of rewrites, probably NOT by the author of the original novel).

Nice location work, though, wherever that estate was that most of the movie was shot!
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Great yarn, great acting! See It!
Elliott Bettman27 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
this is an adaptation of a Dirk Wittenborn book, which I did not read. young Finn Earl lives with his Mom Liz (Diane Lane) in a cramped lower East Side New York Apartment. he dreams of joining his Anthropologist father studying a fierce tribe in South America. Liz has boyfriends and does coke. when he is caught scoring coke for her, one of her customers (Liz is a legitimate masseuse) a rich Mr. Osborne bails her out in return for being his full time personal masseuse in his huge estate in New Jersey. They are driven there in a limo with her strung out lying in the back seat with her dress hitched way up and panties showing. (this and a few low-cut dress scenes is the only exploitation of Ms. Lane. some may be disappointed but I'm sorry she had to do all that stuff in "Unfaithful" to make the A-List. That lady has more talent in her little finger than Streep, Roberts, and Sally Field do in their entire BODIES and its time she was given her due.) when they arrive Finn makes friends with Osbornes grandson Bryce, and has a coming of age with his new girlfriend, granddaughter Maya. Liz meanwhile joins AA and dates an AA doctor. She miraculously cleans up instantly. Finn however does a lot of drugs along with sex with his new friends. Bryce seems like an OK guy but gets jealous when Osborne takes Finn on a hot air balloon race instead of him, and this leads to tragedy.

the genius of the story, (and movie) is that they cut from the violent acts of the Fierce filthy rich Blysdale tribe to the Yanomano warriors. It's a little implausible though that when Liz finds out what happens to her son she merely demands action from Osborne and does not either contact the authorities or settle it Thelma and Louise style. there are elements of a Gothic Romance with a revelation by the village idiot. Also they do almost no plot or character development prior to the move to Blysdale. Liz, for instance, like Lane's Pearl Kantrowitz in "Walk on the Moon" had an unwanted pregnancy with Finn at 18 and felt trapped. This is in the book but not the movie. Still, these are minor shortcomings. The movie will be in full release 12/31/05 over a year after the original release date, and I just couldn't wait.

There were lots of Red Carpet moments in the theater I saw the movie at, with almost the whole cast...except Diane Lane!! $#%#Q$ Director Dunne said she was off filming a movie. I know she didn't promise to be there, but I came from way out of town and it would have been such a thrill to see her in person. The movie is a definite Best Picture contender, as for acting?? Sutherland was quite good, and so was the boy who played Finn. Lane was magnificent as always, but I only recall one or two emotional scenes, when she catches Finn with drugs "lets get f****d up together mother and son" and with Osborne "your twisted grandson...". She would fare better with a supporting actress nod but it wont work that way. unless they give it to her for a "body of work."
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Africa Screens
wes-connors20 September 2008
Dirk Wittenborn's story, directed by Griffin Dunne, starts to fall apart when, while watching African tribal rituals, the younger generation of characters begins chanting the expletive word for procreation, followed by "Kill!", again, and Again, and AGAIN... It's a scene representative of the film's "tribal" symbolism; the "upstairs/downstairs" cast of characters are varying levels of decadent rich. They act like, and are associated with, tribal savages. Their tribal passion is fueled by alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

When one of the characters, in disguise, violently assaults another character, something is lost in the translation. This particular "event" must have been more clearly understood in Wittenborn's original book. "Fierce People" seems like must have come from a terrific novel. On screen, young Anton Yelchin (as Finn Earl) is endearingly huckleberry, in the protagonist's role. Massaging mother Diane Lane (as Liz Earl) and daddy-like Donald Sutherland (as Ogden C. Osborne) help keep it above average.

****** Fierce People (4/24/05) Griffin Dunne ~ Anton Yelchin, Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Chris Evans
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uneven movie, quirky turns dark
SnoopyStyle18 January 2015
It's 1980. 16 year old Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin) wants to escape from his drug addicted "massage therapist" mother Liz (Diane Lane) and their lower east side flat to study the Iskanani Indians or Fierce People with his anthropologist father whom he has never met. Instead, she takes them to the New Jersey country estate of her ex-client billionaire Ogden C. Osbourne (Donald Sutherland) for the summer. There he encounters another kind of Fierce People. He falls for Ogden's granddaughter Maya Langley (Kristen Stewart) and befriends her older brother Bryce (Chris Evans). Their father is in a coma and their mother (Elizabeth Perkins) is bossy. Jilly (Paz de la Huerta) is the exceedingly friendly maid.

Anton Yelchin plays yet another smug kid. This time, he's studying rich people like an anthropologist. It's an overly odd family but the quirkiness never gets to be funny. Then the movie takes a dark turn. The characters and the story always had some dark tones but the turn is especially nasty. The quirky slightly humorous movie breaks down and struggles. The movie is terribly uneven and director Griffin Dunne should have started the movie in a darker place. If he elevates the darker tones early, the movie could stay creepy and disturbed.
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my review of Fierce People
Cassandra (starcassi)29 April 2005
Went to the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC and I absolutely loved the film!!! I am Diane's #1 biggest fan and of course, as always, she gave a magnificent performance!! I have seen every single one of her movies and I must say that this is one of my new favorites. Diane was funny and moving and just took my breath away. Donald Sutherland was surprisingly humorous but also a good amount of serious. Anton Yelchin is just a wonderful young actor and gave an amazing performance. All in all, I recommend this film to anyone who can appreciate an excellent movie. 10 thumbs up!!! I would definitely go see it again and again and again. This is the best film of the year so far!!!
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Beware of these negative comments
charlytully10 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
To the eight people who found the previous FIERCE PEOPLE comments by "Psycolicious Me" and "Topdany" "helpful," as well as to any future site visitors who see them before their authors delete them: these negative critique's are not only shorter than the site guidelines mandate, but they are entirely bogus, nonfactual, incorrect, and misinformative. For instance, Blythe's dad is in a coma, NOT dead--Maya and Finn even visit him in the hospital. Furthermore, it was estate deer poacher Dwayne--NOT Blythe--who knocked up Jilly the maid, etc., etc. So if you have ADD which makes you incapable of focusing on the simplest details, please keep your condition to yourself by not pretending to be Siskel or Ebert. Otherwise, include a disclaimer with your comments!
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'You think you are changing a tribe, until the tribe changes you'
gradyharp10 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening scenes of FIERCE PEOPLE (an interplay of tribal customs as photographed by the anthropologist father of the young narrator Finn Earl, demonstrating why this South American tribe of Ishkanani is so fierce) the direction of the film is nebulous: are we watching a dark comedy about comparing life in the New York streets to uncivilized peoples, or is this a message film of a more serious intent? But as the story develops this fine line between entertainment and philosophical impact becomes increasingly clear. Griffin Dunne's direction of Dirk Wittenborn's adaptation of his novel may be a bit careless at times as it strays from rational plot development, but in the end there is a strong enough final impact to patch up the holes he created.

Our narrator Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin) lives with his coke-addicted masseuse/sexually obsessed mother Liz (Diane Lane) in New York, waiting for the summer when he is to join his anthropologist father on a field trip to South America (a father he knows only from letters and videos), when a drug bust abruptly changes their lives: one of Liz's wealthy clients Ogden Osborne (Donald Sutherland) rescues the down and out family and moves them to his ten acre estate, the epitome of wealth and power. In exchange for being Osborne's private masseuse, Liz and Finn can live in the mansion with the 'filthy rich' Osbornes - daughter Mrs. Langley (Elizabeth Perkins) and grandchildren Bryce (Chris Evans) and Maya (Kristen Stewart). Osborne and his physician lead Liz on the drying out path and Finn bonds with Osborne and his grandchildren, and despite the disparity in poor versus wealthy, the living situation works - for a while. Incidents occur to alter feelings and Finn is attacked and raped by a masked assailant, a turning point for the film and Finn's view of the Osborne family. Osborne reveals his past to Finn and together they manage to discover the truth about Finn's troubling incident - and also about the fierce disease of the wealthy class.

The film uses many clips of tribal activity during the film, drawing some disturbing parallels for some of the more challenging scenes. For this viewer that works well, but when the director elects to place tribal individuals in full regalia within the context of the Osborne estate, the concept feel contrived, as though the audience has to be forced to 'get it'. The various subplots between maid Jilly (Paz de la Huerta) and Finn and the introduction of an obese retarded chalk artist Whitney (Branden Williams) push the credibility edge of emphasizing the line between the wealthy and the 'lower class', but the performances by Sutherland, Lane, and Yelchin are strong enough to make us forgive the film's lapses. Not a great film but one with a lot of worthy ideas splashed around on the screen of a project that often feels lost in its struggle for direction. Grady Harp
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Mildly entertaining
Gordon-1130 September 2016
This film tells the story of a young man whose mother is a masseuse, and his father is an anthropologist. He and his mother move into a wealthy clients home in an upmarket place, but things are not as rosy as they seem.

"Fierce People" starts off quite captivating, as the young man's somewhat troubled life is revealed. After he moves into the mansion, things get a bit confusing. Characters come out from nowhere, and events happen so fast that I frequently had to rewind to catch what happened. Then, the plot focus turns from Anton Yelchin's character to another character, which for me does not work because there is little build up to make this shift convincing. The story itself is interesting, but the story telling does not give the story justice.

I enjoyed watching "Fierce People" because it contains three currently big stars that were not big when this film was filmed, namely Chris Evans, Kristen Stewart and the late Anton Yelchin. If it wasn't for that, I would have found the film only mildly entertaining.
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This Is Not Escapist Entertainment But Intellectually Worth Watching
Carl White (moovemkr)27 August 2015
If you just want to judge this movie based on the final product you see on the screen, it would be about 4 stars. I give it 6 because it wanted to be so much more and I will always find value in anyone or anything that aspires to greatness even when failure is the result.

Basically, would you rather see a prosaic movie that can only be boring and unimaginative be as great as it can be or a daring movie with interesting ideas, that could be great, turn out to be mediocre at best?

The talent the production attracted tells you that the potential was there but I am guessing the production either ran out of time or money or both as the finished product failed as a complete work of art.

It does make me wonder about Griffin Dunne, the director, I am intrigued by the subject matter he chooses to direct, you can always sense the potential, but he never seems to make a great film. I say that with the caveat that Addicted to Love is one of my favorite films, flawed, but it strikes a nerve with me.

Even as mediocre as Fierce People is, it will make you think, it is definitely intellectual, and the subject matter concerning humanity and the desires and motives and actions of modern day human beings as compared to primitive cultures is certainly interesting. The idea being that no matter how sophisticated modern man, especially in western cultures, thinks he is, when it all comes down to it we are still just human beings, animals, that want and need sex and food and shelter and comfort, and unfortunately, violence and cruelty and power over other human beings is often how we gain and protect what we have.

Bottom line, if you are simply looking for escapist entertainment, skip this one, you will be bored. But if you want to dig a little deeper and maybe think about the creatures you interact with on a daily basis in a different way, this film is worth a viewing.
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Excellent Film
driverdesign20 July 2015
Saw one person comment that this film was like two different films, one light, one dark and that person meant it as a negative which is a totally bogus and misleading portrayal of this film.

The first and second halves of this film are light and then dark and finally light again; but that's a good thing. Excellent plot twist and the ending is a feel good moment and very appropriate to the overall theme of the film.

Highly recommend this film and I rarely do film reviews. I've tried not to give away many specifics so you can enjoy this truly excellent film for yourself.
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'Out of bad comes good.'
TxMike14 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is a rather strange movie with big stars. When it is all said and done the main theme seems to be 'out of bad comes good'. And near the end the narration contains 'We are the sum of all the people we ever meet. You change the tribe, and the tribe changes you.'

The tribe reference is at two levels in this film. Anton Yelchin is Finn Earl, about to turn 16. His father is an anthropologist living with a native 'Fierce People' tribe far away, and he invites Finn to spend the summer with him there. But something happens, some petty trouble, that prevents that so he and his mom end up going to the large, 9000+ acre private property of a very wealthy man, where mom will be his personal masseuse.

The second meaning of "tribe" in this film are the assorted family and hangers-on at the country property. Young Finn has experiences there which change him forever, and he changes the tribe.

His mom is Diane Lane as Liz Earl. The very wealthy man is Donald Sutherland as Ogden C. Osborne. His grandson is Chris Evans as Bryce. And his granddaughter is Kristen Stewart as Maya. Maya and Finn are both 15 about to turn 16 (pretty close to their actual ages), and they become friends, maybe more than friends.

The movie is pretty strange and most 'normal' viewers will not like it, but I enjoyed it for the novelty and a chance to see two actors (Yelchin and Stewart) in the early stages of their careers.

SPOILERS: Bryce really is the bad guy in the 'tribe', early on he gets angry that grandpa "replaced him" by having Finn be his partner in a traditional family balloon race. Bryce retaliates by ambushing and sodomizing Finn one night. Bryce was hooded, but later via a cigarette lighter Finn realized it was him. Then even later Bryce, angry at his grandpa smothered and killed him with a pillow. Eventually all this fractured the 'tribe' and Finn and mom went back to New York, while Maya was bing sent to a boarding school in Switzerland. We feel they will stay in touch.
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Bad bad bad
topdany18 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'm thinking of some things for this movie: First, really is a very bad movie. This is really "Superbad". The film looked very promising in the trailers but fell flat... Maybe the original idea was good, but between a bad script and bad acting the movie became boring and empty. My advise is don't waste 2 hours of your precious time. You have been warned. This is the first movie I rated 1 star at Second, none of the characters are likable. You really don't care what happened to them... Third, the villain is very easy to identify. The grandson kills his father, sodomizes the friend's son, get the maid pregnant, smothers his grandfather... Like JT says, "If you like evil with no retribution, this is your movie". Nothing more to say...
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Awful, sick, twisted waste of two hours.
PsycoliciousMe1 July 2008
Me and my friend read the summery and watched the trailer and were very interested and excited to go rent this movie. BAD IDEA. We thought a movie with actors that influential would have been a sure hit, but our expectations fell extremely short. First of all, the trailer and summery are misleading to the point of lies. The movie started out slow for the first 1 1/2 hours(reminder, its about two hours long) and when it finally started to gain momentum, It sucked. Plus, the plots were very hard to follow. It confused us because it kept skipping from one story to another in random order. The characters where not very realistic when it came to reality. Sure the mum and son could be actual people in reality, but everyone else seemed to be one extreme or the other. If your a person who likes sick, twisted, unusual movies, then go for it. But we advise not wasting two hours of you life you cant get back. Unfortunitly, no one told us that...
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Interesting but one dimensional
phd_travel15 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The story is about class distinction and how rich people treat poor ones. The initial premise and setting are interesting. But the ending is a little silly. Without giving away the identity - why the villain should be so evil isn't really explained well - it's a bit one dimensional and too much.

Anton Yelchin does a good job - he has some screen presence and charm.

Diane Lane looks pretty here and acts well.

Watched this because I'm a Kristen Stewart fan but it is worth watching otherwise. You can see her getting experience for Twilight.

It has mature subject matter but is not lewd.
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What the …, Kristen Stewart in one of the great love stories. v1.03
annevejb21 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
How the world seems to work depends on who you are.

The children of the 7th richest man in the USA are a pattern that I also notice in Woody Allen's musical, Everyone Says I Love You (1996). One of the great musicals.

Magnificent: The daughter Maya definitely makes me think of Drew Barrymore's Skylar.

Scary: The son Bryce is paralleled by a wider range of characters, subtly different too: Obviously the parolee Charles Ferry, played by Tim Roth. Also D.J. (Natasha Lyonne), Laura (Natalie Portman), Lane (Gaby Hoffmann) and their friend Claire (Barbara Hollander). Possibly also brother Scott (Lukas Haas).

For me, these are all cartoons of what often happens to real people in the everyday world, even though these two features are both set in very unreal worlds. Theirs are the worlds of the 'haves'. At the end of the 50% wow I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007), scary Saoirse Ronan, Yasmin Paige, and 'unlisted guitarist' sing their tribute to scary.


When I drift from simply enjoying the story it tends to be to muse about beliefs. To me, that is to properly enjoy this story. Maya and Bryce have different beliefs, but if they are not held in a pure form, they are things that they can have in common, just interpreted in different ways and of a different priority.

Nice guy Maya, to take that nice guy core to a pure extreme could make her very fragile, indeed. It would also make it rather difficult for her to be properly nice? Skylar might make me consider differently.

Bryce has a very pure form of a belief that in a milder form might talk about questions of justice? Except that with him it is on the level of psycho killer. This is the age where politicians praise and help the strong and penalise the weak, in the UK definitely. Britain has been puritan, in some way or other, for some time. I am reminded of the extinction of the dinosaurs as hinted at in the Jurassic Park series. The small guys sink first, the big guys get bigger, then all fall down.



Out of bad comes good. Bryce had a rather literal interpretation of that. Maya was looking in a different direction entirely, with potential success. Finn followed Bryce's logic, but somehow when it came to the crunch he added a hidden extra. Rite of passage, Finn was accepted into the tribe. The beliefs are clear, but reality might need other if things are to be worthwhile. To feel honour bound to the rulebook can create a big problem.
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Utterly loses its way in the second half
MBunge3 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The first half of Fierce People is a mildly amusing coming of age story. The second half is a huge mess. I don't think I've ever seen another movie that just spins apart like this.

The film starts out with a teenaged boy named Finn (Anton Yelchin) and his drug addicted masseuse of a mother (Diane Lane). He gets busted getting her drugs, so she decides they're going to spend summer away from the city at the estate of one of her old clients (Donald Sutherland) who happens to be the 7th richest man in the United States. Stuck for the next few months on the 10 square miles of the rich man's estate, Finn decides to make an anthropological study of the "tribe" of the rich man's family and hangers-on. What follows is about an hour of the same movie you've seen before about a young man in a strange place learning lessons about life.

That first half of the movie is relatively entertaining. The only real problems are that Finn is a fairly unimpressive and not-terribly-likable character, which is actually pretty realistic for a teenaged boy, and that the story abruptly switches away from Finn and focuses on his mother for a short period. Normally, anything that keeps the beautiful Diane Lane on screen isn't a bad thing, but Finn is such an uninspiring main character that the story really needs to do as much with him as it can.

All in all, though, that first hour is pleasant and even charming, if a bit ridiculous when the rich man's granddaughter keeps throwing herself at Finn like a nymphomaniac. It will hold your attention and even make you interested in seeing how the story's going to develop…right up until Finn gets beaten and raped in a grassy field.

I'll admit, I didn't see that coming at all. And, perhaps, that could have been the point where a mediocre coming-of-age movie took off and became something quite special. However, that ain't what happened. When Finn gets raped, it becomes a completely different sort of story but the filmmakers don't seem to know how to tell it. They don't embrace the darker, more dramatic tale in front of them and they haphazardly try to reinsert the gentler tone of the first hour. Eventually, the movie loses all sense of itself and drowns in Gothic melodrama and a climactic scene that looks like it was ripped off from one of those teen suspense thrillers, like The Skulls. It's almost as though they brought in a different director and writer for that scene.

The guy who wrote this movie also wrote the book upon which it is based, and it's possible that this story worked as a novel. When you've got hundreds of pages and hundreds of thousands of words to work with, you can get beneath the surface of the story with meditations and asides and digressions that take the reader's attention away from a surface story which might be too choppy or roiled up. But in a movie, all you have is the surface and if that surface story doesn't work, there's no way to hide it.

Fierce People REALLY doesn't work. A movie that shifts so harshly in the middle may never be able to work, but it's like these filmmakers don't even try. So instead of an interesting failure…Fierce People just fails.
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