The Poker House (2008) Poster

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Felt a bit all over the place at times, not a terrible movie though
KineticSeoul8 February 2011
This is one of the story in the life of Lori Petty, and I never knew how much of a difficult childhood she had. It's basically a depressing and yet well acted and well made movie to some degree about girls struggles. Mainly because of a bad mother and not a very good environment to be growing up in. Now the negative aspect of this movie is that, it seemed to drag in a lot of scenes. In fact some of the scenes actually seemed quite pointless. Basically the plot is about a tough girl who is also smart, but don't always make the right decision having to take care of her sisters as well as overcome her struggles with the environment. The plot seemed all over the place at times and got boring during sometimes as well. This is not a near perfect movie but it isn't as terrible as some people claim it to be. The ending was okay though.

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Powerful and drama filled coming-of-age.
Michael O'Keefe16 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Actress Lori Petty turns director for this harsh and gritty drama of a young 14-year-old girl named Agnes(Jennifer Lawrence)growing up in less desirable conditions in the mid 1970s. Agnes has two younger sisters and her mother Sarah(Selma Blair) is strung out on drugs. Everyday is a struggle for survival; Agnes looking after her sisters and trying to protect them from what goes on in their home. The house is host to degenerates playing cards, drugging, drinking and whoring. Sarah allows all the activity going on in the "poker house", because she herself is a major part of it. Agnes seems to be bright in spite of battling conditions to study in and is a talented local basketball hero. Life seems so dark and miserable, but Agnes has the resilience to make it to tomorrow. After seeing Lawrence in WINTER'S BONE, I am just that more assured she is one strong actress with unlimited abilities. Blair in this role is just as sensational. Playing the little sisters Sophie Bairley and Chloe Grace Moretz prove to have exciting and worth watching futures ahead. POKER HOUSE has a strong supporting cast featuring: Bokeem Woodbine, David Alan Grier, Andrew Rothenberg and Natalie West.
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A Near Perfect Movie
yossarian10021 October 2009
A person's life is made up of many stories, and this is just one story from Lori Petty's life, but it's told with all the style of John Steinbeck. Speaking of style, something which is lacking in so many films today, even great ones, THE POKER HOUSE is done with an amazing amount of it, and the only thing you get more of than style in this movie is the incredible performances and characterizations of Jennifer Lawrence, Sophia Bairley, Chloe Moretz, and Selma Blair, an excellent supporting cast, and a to-die-for script. The final scene of this movie is not an ending, it's a beginning, and it's so powerful I jumped to my feet while watching it. Lori Petty has an incredible grasp of the art of visual storytelling. I can't wait to see what she does next.
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An intimate reminder of my childhood
momofmelbaandcasey27 February 2012
I enjoyed this movie from beginning until the end. Perhaps due to the evocative nature of the film and my own very early childhood. Like Adele, the lead character and narrator of the film, it fell upon me at way too young an age, after a parental separation, to pick up the pieces, both figuratively and literally. This film is so surprisingly different than anything else that Lori Petty has done in film that I was startled to find out that it was indeed the Lori Petty from Tank Girl who penned and directed this film. A tale of religion gone wrong and a mother who couldn't deal with the consequential aftermath, a tale of a girl old beyond her years, searching for a tender love that couldn't be bargained; I wish that you see this film and take from it the hope that it inspires, the longing that children have for a pure love and the understanding that you can't always get what you want or even what you need.
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A bad HS play
John Holden9 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This runs out much like a play: characters speak their lines and act individually rather than interact; folks jump in and out of scenes with dialog that has no relation to a narrative that might have been developed; quirkiness abounds.

The film opens with "based on a true story" and closes with a note that we've just seen the director's real life. OK, but realism and verisimilitude by themselves don't make for good art.

Oh, and it's narrated throughout so there's no possibility that you'll miss something. Narration is great for folks who don't want to take the time to film a story.

It's a shame because there's a good story here - kids growing up around - and being lead into - gambling, drugs, prostitution, theft, etc. We just don't see any of it. We see a superhero girl sententiously pushed down our throats by the writer-director.
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Bravo to the actors and the characters they play!
liajane1931 January 2012
Selma Blair is amazing in The Poker House as a drug-addicted prostitute who has her three daughters living with her. Jennifer Lawrence also gives a wonderful performance as the eldest daughter, Agnes who takes care of her two younger siblings. The Poker House is narrated by Agnes as she tries to deal with being 14 and living in a house where there is gambling, drugs, alcohol, and pimps. The story definitely pulls on the heart strings at times, but it does not overwhelm with sadness that it makes it hard to enjoy. It adds just the right amount of humor that three young girls can produce while being silly together. I honestly was shocked by how well the movie was produced and the character portrayal. The Poker House is definitely something I would recommend to my friends, as well as watch again.
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Horrible, shabby script!! (good acting tho)
BronzeKeilani2628 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The abrupt way the film cut off just as it was starting to take form, made it the worst ending to a movie I've seen in a long time! And, we go to the matinée most every wk end, rent & watch a lot of movies. The acting from Selma, Bokeem and Jennifer Lawrence is truly convincing & professional in this film. Also, acting by the children & teens are exceptionally well. Unfortunately, it couldn't save the film considering this isn't one of those films we could sit back, relax & enjoy. In most parts, the script seemed incomplete & chaotic, such as, forcing viewers to put in work second guessing exactly what roles certain characters played in the main character's life(Agnes), who was who & what was the point of a few interesting scenes w/ no outcome(which eventually made them irrelevant). That caused the film to drag on more often than not. It was like trying to use your own imagination while listening to someone in a drunk stupor (and depressed), tell you about 3 days & fifteen minutes out of 150 chapters of their unstable, hectic life. Nearly as bad was the way it transitioned from one scene to the next & careened from plot to plot, such as the connection we never make to the scenes w/ the youngest sister(Chloe Moretz). Matter of fact, we aren't aware Agnes & Cammie are sisters or even know one another until Agnes picks 2 sisters up instead of 1 off an overpass at night, and they drive off five min before the ending! None of us could figure out if the boring scenes w/ a little girl "always" in a complete different setting were flashbacks to when Agnes was a little girl, or her mother. Lastly, if watching a 13 yr old **** tease & bust slob with a black pimp is interesting to you, and you can believe he allows her to sit across from him & call his peers n*(ggers)during their conversations, than forces himself on her 10 minutes before the movie cuts off, and unlike other 'based on true event" films...we can't research what happens after or to other characters...along with all the above, than this miserable movie is right up your alley. Enjoy! because I doubt they'll be another made like it (thank God)
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A Powerhouse of Excellent Performances
jerrybrsc216 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
OK, so I just saw The Poker House yesterday and I had to wait almost a full day before I could successfully review it just to let it all sink in. I'm gonna go ahead and let you know how I feel right up front (if on the off chance you can't read the title of this review or see the stars); I loved this movie! Where to begin? OK, let's talk about what I liked. First of all, the performances were all just entrancing, most specifically Jennifer Lawrence. She plays a very vulnerable, yet rugged and emotionally confused 14 year old girl, named Agnes. Her delivery of each line of dialogue is just masterful in every sense of the word, and she infuses each sentence and every nuance of her character with such realistic flare that it's almost to the point of method. Also, Selma Blair who plays the character of Sarah, Agnes' mother, does an excellent job of playing the coked-up prostitute who is so out of touch with reality that it's almost unbelievable. For those of you who don't know, this film is based on the real life experiences of it's director, Lori Petty, thus ensuring some very powerfully and well written material as well as some top shelf direction, which it absolutely delivers in every aspect. The only real problem that I can think this film had was some of the characters are a little over-the-top, but honestly, I accredit this to Petty's writing and direction, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This is her life story and I'm sure that those characters were really as insane and over-the-top as they are portrayed in this movie. Really the biggest problem for me personally was that, at times, the pacing was a little off. It would slow down and speed back up again without much reasoning as to why it was doing it. This is just a minor point because at no point do you find yourself scratching your head and saying, "What?" or "How?". Overall guys, The Poker House is a very very well acted movie, a pretty well executed movie, and a very underrated movie. I really don't know why this film has only 6.1 Stars. But anyway, I hope you liked this review and take it into consideration if you consider seeing this film. Thanks.
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A First Draft
ktw1226 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Not to long ago I took a class in literary nonfiction. For that class, I wrote an essay about my relationship with my father. My professor made a very useful comment that anyone who attempts to write about their life should heed: "Maybe you're too close to the material. You should give it some time." I wish Lori Petty had taken that class and heard that advice.

Petty obviously had some trouble separating herself from this story, but that is what a film is supposed to be, a story. If Petty had just wanted to recount a tragic day in her childhood, then she should have made a documentary. Since this is supposed to be a film every scene should advance the story in someway. That was one of the things that irritated me about this movie. It dragged on with all these unnecessary scenes that did nothing to advance the plot. Why did we need to see Agnes playing a pick up game of basketball? Why did we need to see Agnes at the Burger joint? Why are there so many scenes of Cammie at the bar? My other problem with this film is its protagonist. Agnes is clearly smart and savvy. Savvy enough to make sure that her little sisters don't see her mother's john, but not smart enough to know better than to make out with her mother's pimp/lover. Trailers for this film described the pimp as a father figure, but who makes out with their father? I also didn't understand why Agnes had Bee leave the poker house when she saw that the degenerates had shown up, but didn't leave herself. She had a basketball to go to why was she hanging around? These decisions and Agnes' obnoxious, chatty, and attention seeking personality make it hard to like her as a character. Also, I would have been more interested in what happened to Agnes and the girls immediately after the ending instead of some vague reference to her leaving for New York years later.
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Slow to get started, but fantastic acting holds it together
Jayden93313 June 2012
The Poker House is a dramatic independent film starring the young Jennifer Lawrence. As usual, Lawrence's performance was gripping. Personally, I liked The Poker House better than Lawrence's Oscar-nominated role in Winter's Bone, which was also nominated for Best Picture. The Poker House has a major drawback as the first half of the film is very slow and unrevealing story-wise, yet it managed to keep me intrigued. Then, it all turns around after the dramatic climax of the film. The scene, which stands out as one of Jennifer Lawrence's most chilling and petrifying performances, is immediately followed by what is perhaps one of the most beautifully crafted and spectacularly shot monologues I've ever seen, given by Selma Blair. While the timing seems odd, it is a powerful and emotional moment capitalized by the two actresses' talent. The remainder of the film continues to satisfy to its jaw-dropping conclusion. 6.9/10
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One house to rent
videorama-759-85939129 September 2014
Before JL was known, she lit up the screen here, among many other great performances in a true yet, I guess in one way, astounding story based on ex actress, Petty's childhood. Lawrence plays the the oldest sister to two youngin's whose irresponsible mother (Selma Blair) is a drunk and a heroin shooter. Her lover (Bokeem Woodbine) and pimp is having it off with Lawrence, in some intimately hot scenes, where I could see a talent on the rise. In this notorious house, there's pimping, boozing, partying, and of course poker playing. Lawrence does of steal the movie, really making an impact on the viewer, where surrounding performances are not to be underrated, particularly Blair, and a surprising David Allen Grier, as a blind barfly. Woodbine holds his own too, where he's always been an impressive acting talent, from his start in Jason's Lyric. His violent and threatening air to his character was just right, and made it's point. It's some of his best work. What goes on in this house, as from Point Break's Petty's personal biography, is certainly arresting. We even see a flash shot of a very young girl, getting groomed for prostitution, from JL's POV, watching outside. It's an eye opening movie indeed, and first time director, Petty, has brought something special here, in a poignant film that grabs you from end to finish. Definitely one for JL fans, to see how she started off. It's the acting which really makes it work, and again those JL kissing scenes, mmmmmmnnn.
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Overall a great, powerful film
smrusk26 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers, so don't read if you want to experience the movie as I did!

I find it obnoxious how other people who reviewed this movie compare it to a bad HS play or use their one film class as a basis to think they could do a better job telling a memoir that doesn't belong to them.

I had no idea that the director was telling her own story. Had I known that, I feel I would have been less critical throughout. I found myself pulling for these kids to get out in some way, realizing that so many children simply don't.

The few things that I did not enjoy included some characters like the one played by David Alan Grier. While humorous, I'm not sure his role except to be a character.

The narration seemed spotty- I wish it had either been more consistent or taken out completely.

I thought Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant as always. Selma Blair blew me away- she was effective in playing a broken woman you struggle to empathize with. The other two girls were whimsical and you can tell how much their older sister works to protect them, allowing them to keep what little childhood they might have while Agnes literally has hers stolen away.
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Early Jennifer Lawrence role, she is superb in this gritty and mostly ugly film.
TxMike23 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There is a place in the small Iowa community called the "poker house." People of all kinds, but mostly black, congregate in this smoky place for poker, alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. Not a very pretty place, visually or morally.

Jennifer Lawrence was about 16 or 17 during filming, all in the Chicago areas, and she is the main character Agnes who is 14. She and her two younger sisters mostly have to fend for themselves, their mother (Selma Blair, almost unrecognizable) is never fully sober and even if she were does not seem to have any "mothering" skills. Agnes is actually the surrogate mother for the two younger ones. Agnes is also bright, makes straight A's, writes poetry about her gritty life, and is the star basketball player for the school team.

So this is her story, about how she manages to stay above the grime and eventually carve out a better life. Jennifer Lawrence even at her young age is simply superb in her role as Agnes. It was also nice to see Chloë Grace Moretz in an early role as Agnes's little sister Cammie.

SPOILERS: In a good role for him, Bokeem Woodbine is Duval , basically Agnes's mom's pimp. But he also takes a liking to Agnes, they spend long scenes kissing, and her voice-over tells how much she likes his lips. Agnes is young and not wise to the real world, and she thinks he loves her. Then one day of kissing leads to rape. She is shocked, she gets in the tub and washes herself frantically. All trust has been betrayed, but she pulls herself together to go late to the game but plays and scores to erase a large deficit and win the game. The rape was her wake-up call, it influenced her to care for herself and make a career for herself.
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Well, That Escalated Quickly.
dillperrybruh18 September 2014
Okay, let me just start by saying; this is one of the best shot films i've seen in a long time. Let it be known that 80% of the cast were very young when this was shot, yet they perfectly recreated a "70's Cult Flick" theme. Very well done on that front. Plot line was very gritty and dark, but uplifting in a F**ked up sort of way. Supposedly a True Story. I gave it a seven because let it be known some of the acting is very cheesy but then that contributes to the "70's Cult Flick" theme mentioned earlier. We got a very basic character build up. It was essentially a day in the life. I personally would've liked to see more into the characters background. Smooth Start, Rough Middle, Nice Finish. Reminded me VERY MUCH of 8 Mile, Jennifer Lawrence playing Eminem's Character.
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Hit Me
aguchi697 October 2014
I found this rare gem at the pawn shop because Walmart doesn't always have a better price or selection to beat (at times.) I saw a young JL and the Kick Ass girl (which made me wonder was this before or after Kick Ass?)Anyway, this movie has great acting by all those involved and its a sad true case of a story and just when I thought the ending might go unresolved, Bang, in your face! The movie is based on something real, which makes one realize that the theme and goings on, happen every night, at least somewhere in America but not everybody can break away from the cycle which is why the mothers role makes the example. Also, the part dealing with the religious aspect of the movie makes sense too because it can be abused and used to dominate the weaker lambs. All in all it's a worthy performance from the Hunger Games and Kick Ass chicks.
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unfocused harrowing biopic
SnoopyStyle3 February 2016
It's one day in 1976 Council Bluffs, Iowa. Agnes (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 14 year old living in a dysfunctional house. Her family escaped her abusive preacher father. Her sister Bee hopes to get into a foster home. Her youngest sister Cammie (Chloë Grace Moretz) sleeps at a friend's and spends her day at a bar with drunk Stymie (David Alan Grier). Her mother Sarah (Selma Blair) has fallen into prostitution and drug-abuse. She considers her mother's pimp Duval (Bokeem Woodbine) as her boyfriend. The house is a gathering place for criminals to play poker and known locally as the Poker House.

Director Lori Petty brings her personal story to the screen. It's a harrowing story. It needs an expert to focus the story onto Agnes. It's a bit scattered. It's got some great young future stars and has great potential. JLaw does some big acting. She is always compelling. Petty really needs a professional writer to focus this material more.
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There's just today, and then there's tonight
diegorkz9216 July 2013
Story of a little girl, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who lived in "The Poker House", something like a house where they are, pimps, drugs, gambling, that sort of thing. A drama that reflects basically how it was to live there, with her sisters and mother.

I found a good story, besides that is told by the same person who lived it, which makes it much more real, and they are many emotions in this film, which could reflect only living something like that.

For this movie Jennifer Lawrence won an award for an outstanding performance. Thing with which I also agree, because she embody the character with enough personality and gave him a very real touch to it.

Agnes: "I race the sun home in the morning, and the moon up at night. Anything can happen, and anything does. There's just today, and then there's tonight. And tonight is wonderful"
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She's drawing to an inside straight, folks
charlytully14 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike some people, I did NOT jump out of my seat when this movie ended. If anything, I had to work my jaw back into place, after observing how much implausible if not impossible (and certainly illegal, under U.S. federal law, for a MALE writer\director to depict with child actors, or even actors who could PASS for children) one woman could cram into her "based on a true story" film autobiography. Most Americans have no expertise as to whether THE KITE RUNNER novelist, who inspired the movie of the same name, is B.S.-ing us about conditions decades ago in Afghanistan. But some of us are in a better position to see if the events depicted here with admittedly powerful language and acting performances (tagged as more or less happening in Council Bluffs, IA, in 1976) pass the so-called "sniff test."

(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW.) Jennifer Lawrence (nominated for Oscar for last year's WINTER'S BONE) is great bringing a combination of poetry, pathos, and the optimism of youth to writer\director Lori Petty's supposed childhood self, Agnes. The problem is, even for a fictional character, the woes and travails Agnes suffers are larded on to a ludicrous ledge of almost braggadocio. I mean, how likely is it that a girl a couple days past her 14th birthday could be 1) working TWO jobs (as a fast food clerk and professional journalist for the local daily), 2)be pulling down straight "A's" in classes including Calculus & Analytic Geometry and advanced poetry (the canon of which she is expanding with her own voice-over offerings, which she's shown scribbling into her notebooks between everything else), 3) serving as the primary care giver for her 10 and 12 year-old sisters, 4)doing the household shopping her coke-head prostitute mom is incapable of, while being threatened daily to start turning tricks on her own, 5)policing the sleep-over johns and regular pimps over-running her home through the sheer force of her personality, 6)refereeing mom's nightly booze-filled poker games, 7)driving her sisters all over town on errands in a full-sized Cadillac, 8)all the while smoking pot, cigarettes, and boozing herself, 9)while never getting caught out by her school authorities as 10)she becomes a local legend as apparently the best basketball player of EITHER sex in her fairly sizable town, while 11)living a totally color-blind life style, and 12)showing up midway through the second half of a PLAYOFF game with no explanation to anyone on the team (though this flick contends that despite being sexually abused years earlier by her long-gone preacher dad, Agnes' virginity somehow was preserved until a few minutes before game time, when one of mom's pimps forcibly rapes her in self-proclaimed business merger), and 13)scoring "27 points in 7 minutes" (NOT what the movie actually shows, to viewers paying attention, by the way) to eke out a two-point buzzer-beater victory for her visiting team? If you say, "C'mon, it's just a movie," I'd respond, so was HOOSIERS. But the latter film is believable in BOTH tone and events. Ms. Petty's version, on the other hand, sounds like one of Oprah's ill-advised book-of-the-month picks, which she has to retract a week later, when the facts come out.
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The Poker House is not about poker
Seth_Rogue_One29 September 2015
Directed and written by actress Lori Petty based on her own life as a teenager with a drug-addicted prostitute as her mother.

A young Jennifer Lawrence of Hunger Games fame play Agnus (which is supposed to be Lori as a teen, why the name change I'm not sure but I guess it doesn't matter) and she does so really well.

Selma Blair plays her mother, although she's not really worthy the title of a mother in all honesty.

Anyways overall the acting is very good and it has a lot of really good scenes but the narrative is a little off at times to the point it gets a little confusing, for instance a long while in the movie I thought Chloe Grace Moretz character was Agnus when she was younger but that was not the case, and the job scene just felt like another movie with Jennifer Lawrence playing another character.

Anyway if you can look aside stuff like that this still is definitely worth watching.

I give it a 6.5/10.
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Authenticity: A+
rhiattharmon31 December 2011
I was there...really. The characters, the set dressings, costumes, dialogue, all felt authentic. One slight criticism, mom was less than real when she entered as as a junked out, jonesed out, Farah Faucett tressed, racoon-eyed wanna-be. She just didn't make the high-anxiety list for evil stage mothers. Other than that, there was something not covered in previous reviews--a great deal of love went into this production and it shows. Far more than the street scenes, the "degradation," a raucous voice in the wilderness presides above all. This is a very fine film. Like it said, I was there. Thanks for the ride.
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this story she is telling is a lie to sell to us i don't believe any of it
milliondollerhotel16 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT they have 11 year old girl showing her beaver off as an 11 year old IN THE FILM. and I'm just going to guess the only reason is to make cash . this is an exploitation of children film done by a women with no more values than the greed of the dollar bill. if you love to see child-porn you will love this film otherwise you will hate it like me..Hollywood always has some reason to show little kids like this this wasn't a film about anything but child exploiting of the 11 year old actress in it showing pantie beaver shot of them i hate this film how does the FBI or the CIA not view this child exploitation got a bunch of naked girls in it to sell more profits and making rape seem like it would just be a fun time and you just walk it of go have a lap and you will be just fine.. this movie is an fake lying atrocity to make money and us have a pity party for her supposed life.. and she only tells it 30 years later so there is no possible Way TO FIGURE OUT IF SHE IS TELLING HTE TRUTH I SEE THROGUH ALL MOVIES TO THERE TRUE NATURES AND THIS ONES NAATURE IS GREED AND CHILDPORN TO BOOT IF YOU WANT TO JERK OFF TO THE SCENES OF LITTLE 11 YEAR OLD GIRLS There's YOUR Opportunity.. I HOPE THAT SOMEDAY CHILDREN WILL NOT BE EXPLOITED. IT CLEARLY HAPPENS EVERDAY YOU WATCH A Hollywood FILM
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A deep drama with some emotional scenes! 4/10
leonblackwood11 April 2015
Review: This is quite a deep drama about a young girl (Lawrence), who looks after her young sister while her drug taking mum is getting pimped out by her boyfriend. The movie follows her struggle to keep it together while her mum is holding parties in her house with various men coming in and out of her house. She's also an inspiring basketball player who wants to make a better life for herself but her day to day life at home, with hardly anything to eat, really gets her down. The acting from a young Jennifer Lawrence, was great and she made her character seem very realistic. The storyline was quite deep and emotional and you can't help but feel for these young girls who really don't get any love from there mum. I didn't quite get the story about Chloe Grace Moretz but she also put in a great performance, at such a young age. Its a shame that you don't get to visually see how Agnes's life turned out, especially as it's based on a true story, but it's a watchable, small movie which got its point across well. Watchable! 

Round-Up: I think that the main problem with this film is that we have seen this type of story, many times before. The main draw to the movie, for me, is the fact that that Jennifer Lawrence is in it and I haven't really seen her play a role like this before. It does show that the girl can really act and that she can do other roles away from the famous Katniss in the Hunger Games. Although the movie was only made 7 years ago, Lawrence and Moretz look extremely young and it's amazing how far they have come since this movie. Selma Blair, whose been in the Hellboy franchise and Legally Blonde, played the drug taking mum quite well and she also had some emotional alongside Lawrence. Anyway, the movie is a decent watch but it's quite predictable, with no frills.

I recommend this movie to people who are into their emotional dramas about a young girl whose trying to find a way out because her mums on drugs and gets pimped out by her boyfriend. 4/10
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worth seeing
FavACgM1 January 2014
hey there, I think the movie isn't that bad like it seems to be. An interesting plot and well acted characters redress the boring parts of the movie,cause i got tired some times, you can't put a story about a girl struggling with the people around her and to take care of her two sisters into 90 minutes. some scenes seem like they are out off the place they are just senseless. The film could have been more abuzz with sadness inasmuch it would be easier for the audience to joy in the movie. The end is a kind of unrealistic in my opinion, but it's alright though.

6/10 almost worth seeing, you are not going to waste your time :-)
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Poignant indie drama
Woodyanders23 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Tough and resourceful 14-year-old Agnes (a splendid and utterly appealing performance by Jennifer Lawrence) not only has to contend with her pathetic strung-out junkie whore mother Sarah (a startling portrayal by Selma Blair) and suave, yet slimy pimp stepfather Duval (superbly played to smoothly sinister perfection by Bokeem Woodbine), but also has her hands full taking care of her two younger sisters while trying to prevail under exceptionally harsh circumstances. Director Lori Petty, who also co-wrote the hard-hitting script with David Alan Grier, offers a convincing evocation of the 1970's period setting, maintains an appropriately gritty and unsentimental tone throughout, firmly grounds the story in a plausibly drab and seamy everyday reality, and presents a neat array of colorfully seedy secondary characters. Moreover, the strong central theme about the resilience of the human spirit in the most dismal of situations allows a glimmer of hope to peek out amid all the gloom that in turn prevents this film from becoming too depressing. This movie further benefits from excellent acting from a fine cast, with especially stand-out contributions from Chloe Moritz as the perky and precocious Cammie, Sophia Bairley as the sweet and spunky Bee, Grier as jittery drunk Stymie, and Natalie West as sympathetic barmaid Dolly. Both Ken Seng's sharp cinematography and Mike Post's bluesy score are up to par. A real sleeper.
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