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11 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Muddled movie loses its way

Author: Dan Franzen (dfranzen70) from United States
8 March 2008

*** This review may contain 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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This Is Not Escapist Entertainment But Intellectually Worth Watching

Author: Carl White (moovemkr) from United States
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

Author: driverdesign from Arlington, Virginia
20 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.'

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
14 May 2012

*** This review may contain 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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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Beware of these negative comments

Author: charlytully from Rosebush
10 January 2009

*** This review may contain 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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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

What the …, Kristen Stewart in one of the great love stories. v1.03

Author: annevejb from UK
21 April 2012

*** This review may contain 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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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Interesting but one dimensional

Author: phd_travel from United States
15 September 2010

*** This review may contain 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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5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

'You think you are changing a tribe, until the tribe changes you'

Author: gradyharp from United States
10 February 2008

*** This review may contain 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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9 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Africa Screens

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
20 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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0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Utterly loses its way in the second half

Author: MBunge from Waterloo, Iowa
3 May 2010

*** This review may contain 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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