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Nice production, good script, outstanding casting, great young actors and well chosen music makes this a gem. One can complain about some of the extremes of the plot, but forgive the excesses and farcical elements for the sake of a well woven story. It begins with four kids, friends growing up in a middle-class neighborhood. A significant event splits the initial single thread into three, each following a child: the precocious Malee making her first amorous exploration; Leonard and his struggle with obesity, not only his but also of his immediate family; and the conflicted Jacob. While the film would classify as a drama, there is a good deal of humor to counterbalance the tension that is maintained throughout. The editing is superb in how it moves nimbly among the threads, keeping us always interested and curious about what will happen to the characters. The young actors deliver their parts with aplomb which combined with excellent directing should make this a success.
This is a haunting coming-of-age film about children, bound by a
common, shocking tragedy, who struggle to get on with life and overcome
their own troubling problems. Despite the severity of issues conveyed
in this film's overlapping vignettes, it never becomes melodramatic.
Artful screen writing and direction infuse humor in the telling of
these children's storiesstories rich with characters who are colorful,
but never contrived. All of the children provide very genuine,
endearing performancesessential if the audience is going to empathize
with them and their disturbing behavior. This movie will frequently
make you uncomfortablevery uncomfortable. But no matter how horrifying
and even monstrous these children's actions may be, they never lose
their appealing and disarming qualities as children. These are very
cool kids, even the most troubled, who easily win your affection.
During the course of the movie, one of the children queries the others by asking, "Do you know ninety-percent of people's problems are due to their inability to get over the past?" All of these children will be faced with this challenge. You hope all will overcome this obstacle, but sadly, not all of them will or should be able to get over their past.
This movie is done very well and definitely engaging to watch, but
perhaps not quite to my taste.
This is a movie about a tight group of 4 children -- a precocious girl, an overweight boy, and twin brothers, the more out-going who is killed in an accident. The funeral starts the journey of understanding the lives of the remaining 3 -- not only how the family deals with the murdered son/brother, but how the overweight boy deals with his obesity, and how the young girl deals with her mother and absent father.
The heart of the movie really revolves around these near teenagers, and as a result, the coming-of-age experiences are highlighted. At times, I laughed awkwardly, probably out of embarrassment for one of the characters. Nothing wrong with this -- in fact, it's probably what the director was trying to achieve. I was also pulled into the bizarre logic the brother was going through -- through talks with his parents, and even more poignant, some of the very personal kid-to-kid conversations. The visual clues and the inter-actions to parents were all well chosen to create characters that were believable, 3-dimensional and full of conflict. Kudos to the director and actors on this fine work. In particular, the precocious young girl (Zoe Weizenbaum) was well-cast in a very strong, conflicted and convincing performance.
Overall -- well done. This is one of the best 'pre-teen-angst' movies I've seen in a long time.
Fantastic movie with a multitude of messages. Would make for an
excellent movie to show and discuss in schools - I dare you :-) Acting
is incredible and pretty much all comes trough the screen as real
persons and not some abstractions from a writers imagination.
What hopefully will get through to the viewers is how perceptive children are in reading the adults world both literally and the subtle emotions that adults/parents try to keep them from getting. Since most children doesn't have the experience and information needed to filter all this, it can have some really disturbing consequences when children acts in response as is clearly shown here. Luckily it isn't all children who grow up with these kind of experiences - at least not as extreme, but I'm afraid that a lot of parents would be very scared to know that an awful lot actually can relate to this movie...
Michael Cuesta (who previously directed the slick and grotesquely
controversial "L.I.E" and is currently one of the masterminds behind
Showtime's wildly entertaining and grotesque "Dexter") treads some very
dangerous ground with "Twelve and Holding." Working with a solid script
focusing on how three best friends cope with the accidental death of
another friend (the more popular twin brother of one of the
protagonists), he presents pre-adolescent characters with the
psychologically complex motives of adults and we witness their
pratfalls, tragedies, and heart wrenching moments in a the same type of
voyeuristic manner usually reserved for more mature characters and
audiences. Elements of classics like "Stand by Me" keep the film
grounded even as some of the plot developments get a bit far-fetched.
The acting is a huge plus here, with Annabella Sciora (getting more and more enchanting and beautiful with age), Jayne Atkinson (brutal, honest, and gut-wrenching as the grieving mother of the dead child), and Connor Donovan (in duel leads as the dead boy and his conflicted twin brother) highlighting the excellent ensemble. Cuesta's surprisingly subtle direction somehow manages to avoid both the salacious tendencies of a Larry Clark film and the annoyingly overt quirkiness of similarly themed films like "Me and You and Everyone we Know" to deliver a profound and perplexing tale of coming-of-age, revenge and loneliness.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
12 AND HOLDING is one of those little Indie films that somehow slips
through the cracks of public attention and only when it is released on
DVD does it surface as brilliant star of a film. Powerfully and
sensitively written by Anthony Cipriano and directed with unrelenting
intensity and grace by Michael Cuesta, this is a film about youngsters
on the brink of adulthood who respond to each other and to events in
ways far beyond the scope of most mature adults.
Identical twins Rudy and Jacob Carges (Conor Donovan in both roles) differ in the fact that Jacob has a facial birthmark and feels second fiddle to his twin Rudy, a quick, tempered lad who eggs on bullies causing the maelstrom that is to follow. Their close friends are Malee Chuang (Zoe Weizenbaum), the daughter of psychologist Dr. Carla Chuang (Annabella Sciorra) who remains bruised by a failed marriage to an abusive husband, and grossly obese Leonard Fisher (Jesse Camacho) whose parents (Marcia DeBonis and Tom McGowan) are equally addicted to junk food. When Rudy challenges two ruffian classmates (Michael Fuchs and Martin Campetta), the trio's tree house is threatened and is burned as a gesture or revenge - but Rudy happened to be inside the tree house and was burned to death. His parents (Linus Roache and Jayne Atkinson) are devastated as is Jacob, now their only son and one who feels he should have been the twin that died. The family wants revenge and is infuriated when the two lads who caused the tragedy are given only one year of detention.
This event sets off changes in the three friends: Jacob visits the perpetrators in the detention home, unable to see that Rudy's death was an unplanned accident. He threatens the lads and one actually commits suicide in his cell. Jacob gradually becomes friends with the other lad when his security at home is threatened by is parent's adoption of a black son. This new camaraderie results in a plan that leads to a surprising end. In the meanwhile, Leonard's injury in the fire leads to his loss of taste and he sees his obesity, and that of his entire family, as disgusting and commits to changing his life, unable to even forcibly gain the same change from his parents - another surprising end. And Malee's desperate need for a father figure and her starting adolescence leads her to become enchanted by one of her mother's patients, construction worker Gus Maitland (Jeremy Renner in a superb performance) and she attempts to seduce the psychologically damaged Gus without success. The manner in which these three youngsters enter the adult world is more than challenging and the results of their response to entering 'maturity' and to the trauma of the death of Rudy is shattering.
Cuesta directs these fine actors - there is not a weak one in the cast - with surety and a degree of sense of spontaneity that is truly splendid. This is most assuredly an ensemble performance worthy of awards: it is also a series of star turns for Jeremy Renner, Annabella Sciorra, Conor Donovan, Zoe Weizenbaum and Jesse Camacho. This is independent film-making at its finest: the story is tough, the conclusions disturbing, and the quality of acting is astounding. First Class work. Grady Harp
One night, I was on the couch, looking through my "TMN on demand" movie
selections, movies A-Z. Looking for good movies to watch on the movie
network is tough, considering you don't know what ones are
good/recommended and what ones you should entirely stay away from. I
watched all of the ones that fit my taste, and one night, I decided to
view the movie "Twelve and Holding", hardly knowing anything about it.
I'm not really a fan of dramas at all, the "Family Channel" Disney,
pretty much ruined them for me, with these lame drama-comedy's such as
MVP and cheap independent cartoon type ones. I decided to give it a
chance, because I wasn't really in the mood for any action or horror or
Comedy's like I usually was. As soon as it passed the dramatic scenes
about a brother tragically loosing his life to a Molotov cocktail, I
was absorbed into the fascinating character study and couldn't wait to
see what happened next in the tale. Many characters with completely
different problems are examined in this story, and it ties together
nicely with the main plot. Inspiring and heartbreaking moments with
truly remarkable well-acted sequences.
The actors often seemed way to real, to me, and instead of feeling like a total wordplay, the writing style was original and refreshing. There is a good amount of subplots in this coming-of-age story and they are studied with well-written dialog, awkward or funny moments and significant captivating motivational characters. This movie isn't nearly as highly acclaimed as I proposed it was going to be, only one nomination? No Oscar nominations? Nothing!? Surely it deserves more observation on a critical side. Consideration, understanding, the dealing of problems, and temptations are pretty much the four key aspects this movie is tackling and trying to make the viewer take into consideration, but people aren't giving it a fighting chance. Speaking of characters, five strong characters are highlighted in this film. Jeremy Renner, who plays Gus, a mislead need-no-sympathy pathetic man who tries to be a clean role model to a little girl, Zoe Weizenbaum who happens to be one of the other lead characters, playing Malee. Jesse Camacho playing Leonard, who has to deal with his overweight family, one of the more motivational and inspirational characters of the film. He is also overweight, but actually is the one who is trying to take action and loose weight. Conor Donovan, another powerful actor from the film, plays two characters, himself and his much more unapproachable and risk-taking brother. Two strong roles too fill, and he does the job. This film tops off with one of the most emotionally charged and satisfying endings I've seen in a drama since a long time.
I feel the last reviewer was a little out of touch with reality. They
felt the movie was too 'extreme', but I was actually drawn closer to
the characters because the writer portrayed them as VERY real and
believable. If I was that age, and someone did what was done to the boy
in the movie, prison would be the least of their worries. These kids,
and ALL kids, are not the innocent 'Beaver Cleavers' most adults think
(or wish) all kids are. I for one, remember when I was 12. I did things
like these kids did, and more. I was sexually active in a same sex
relationship with someone older, another issue is addressed in the
movie, and could relate to it even though the relationship portrayed in
the movie is heterosexual. It is VERY rare to see ANY reference to
adult - adolescent "relationships" where the adolescent is the sexual
aggressor, and NOT the adult. It may be an ugly subject, but it IS
I give this movie an 11 on a scale of 1-10. I would also like to thank IFC Films for showing new releases on PayPer View so people who don't have access to theaters showing the films can see them. I wish ALL independent films were available in this manner.
This movie touches on a series of issues troubling America today seen thru the eyes of it's youth. The film shows us that problems in areas such as violence, guns, race issues and obesity are no longer limited to adults but play an active part amongst young people as well. The film centers around a group of 12 year old friends and their families. All with different problems which reflect on their parents short comings. The script is very well written and the acting is quite extraordinary throughout the entire film. The only real problem is that the movie feels a little too short, but perhaps it's better to quit while ones ahead. I'd recommend this film to anyone with an interest in human nature and all it's flaws.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.
Ostensibly about a group of friends, this film tells three separate
tales that veer from comedy to tragedy and back again. I'll sketch them
in the order of most successful to least.
Malee lives with her mom and never sees her dad. She's just started her period and begins to develop a very strong crush on a construction worker who is one of her therapist mother's patients. Her attempts at flirting are both painful and very funny to watch. She's obviously missing a father figure, but there's something else stirring as well, and she's lonely and looking for adult attention. Zoe Weizenbaum was just a joy to watch, beautiful and earnest and lovable and willing to take amazing risks for the film. The director told us to watch out for her as "Young Pumpkin" in the upcoming Memories of a Geisha.
Leonard is an overweight kid from a family where everyone is overweight, and he's tired of being the butt of other people's jokes. After a serious accident in which (bizarrely) he loses his senses of taste and smell, he starts eating healthy food and exercising, and takes radical action to, as he sees it, save his mother's life. Played soulfully by Jesse Camacho, Leonard is never just comic relief, but a hurting little boy who wants to change not only his life, but his family's as well.
Jacob (Conor Donovan) and Rudy (also played by Conor Donovan) are twin brothers who are very different from each other. Rudy is athletic and fearless, Jacob withdrawn and shy, mostly because of a large birthmark on his face. One night, Rudy and Leonard stay overnight in their treehouse, after bullies threaten to destroy it. Their plan to stay awake and defend it goes horribly wrong when they doze off, and the bullies light it on fire, unaware that anyone is inside. Leonard escapes with relatively minor injuries (but as noted above, the odd side effect that he can no longer smell or taste). But Rudy is killed, and his family is devastated. Jacob is racked with guilt for not being with the others on the night of the fire, but he's also filled with a desire for revenge. After the two perpetrators are sent away to a juvenile facility for a year, Rudy and Jacob's mother expresses her wish that the guilty pair die, a sentiment that Jacob stores away in his heart.
For a while, Jacob goes to the juvenile facility regularly to threaten the two, telling them that when they get out, he's going to kill them. But after one of the boys commits suicide in custody, Jacob softens and even continues to visit the other boy and bring him comic books. As the boy's release looms, they make a plan to run away together. Jacob is unhappy at home, feeling unwanted due to the arrival of a new adopted child. But his plans lead to even more tragedy.
If all this sounds melodramatic, it is. And despite the heavy subject matter, at times there was a vaguely "after-school special" feeling about the film. This last story, which in some ways ties the others together, carries the most weight, but is the least successful. I'm not sure why, but it may have something to do with the huge dramatic burden placed on the shoulders of a young actor with little experience. The fact that the film careens through a wide emotional territory like a drunken elephant doesn't help, either.
In the end, the performances of Camacho and Weizenbaum are so winning that I sort of wish they were in a film of their own. As a story of three kids seeking the love of their parents, the film is only partially successful. I also wish the kids had been in more scenes together, since you don't really get to see why they're friends in the first place.
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