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Fierce People (2005)

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A massage therapist looking to overcome her addictions and reconnect with her son, whose father is an anthropologist in South America studying the Yanomani people, moves in with a wealthy ex-client in New Jersey.

Director:

Griffin Dunne

Writers:

Dirk Wittenborn (book), Dirk Wittenborn (screenplay)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Diane Lane ... Liz Earl
Anton Yelchin ... Finn Earl
Donald Sutherland ... Ogden C. Osborne
Chris Evans ... Bryce
Kristen Stewart ... Maya
Paz de la Huerta ... Jilly
Blu Mankuma ... Gates
Elizabeth Perkins ... Mrs. Langley
Christopher Shyer ... Dr. Leffler
Garry Chalk ... McCallum
Ryan McDonald ... Ian
Dexter Bell ... Marcus Gates
Kaleigh Dey ... Paige
Aaron Brooks ... Giacomo
Jeff Westmoreland Jeff Westmoreland ... Whitney
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Storyline

Trapped in his mother's Lower East Side apartment, sixteen-year-old Finn wants nothing more than to escape New York and spend the summer in South America studying the Iskanani Indians, or "Fierce People," with the anthropologist father he's never met. But Finn's dreams are shattered when he is arrested in a desperate effort to help his drug-dependent mother, Liz, who scrapes by working as a masseuse. Determined to get their lives back on track, Liz moves the two of them into a guest house on the vast country estate of her ex-client, the aging aristocratic billionaire, Ogden C. Osbourne. In Osbourne's close world of privilege and power, Finn and Liz encounter a tribe fiercer and more mysterious than anything they might find in the South American jungle: the super rich. While Liz battles her substance abuse and struggles to win back her son's love and trust, Finn falls in love with Osbourne's beautiful granddaughter, Maya, befriends her charismatic older brother, Bryce, and even wins ... Written by Zoey

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Nothing is more savage than high society. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, drug use, sexuality/nudity and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Canada

Language:

English | Tagalog

Release Date:

30 November 2007 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Des Gens Impitoyables See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$19,968, 9 September 2007, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$85,410, 23 September 2007
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Eddie Rosales who played the shaman in the movie's dream sequence was actually speaking in Filipino. See more »

Goofs

When the police car takes them away from their apartment it has a stop light out, but when it is arriving at the country house the light is fixed. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Finn Earl: [narrating] There's this tribe in South America called the Ishcanani. That means fierce people.
Finn Earl: They're. They're like the meanest people in the world. They'll cut off your thumbs, and they'll shit in your hammock just like we say hello.
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Soundtracks

Ride the Swing
Written & Performed by Matthew Ender
Published by D J S Music (BMI)
Courtesy of Kid Gloves Music
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User Reviews

 
A coming-of-age tale that's a complex, quirky treasure
16 October 2006 | by larry-411See all my reviews

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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