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Critics reviews
Child of God
James Franco United States, 2013
Franco, clearly in love with the writing, puts a fragment of the first sentence (“They came like a caravan of carnival folk up through the swales of broomstraw and across the hill in the morning sun…”) on screen as an opening title card. This is our unimaginative introduction to McCarthy-by-way-of-Franco, and a sign of things to come: The filmmakers repeat this tactic a few more times, and divide the film into three sections marked by Roman numerals just as the novel does.
August 13, 2014
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Franco clearly wants to be a provocative artist with the chops to bring major literature to life, but he has no relationship with the camera. Every cut has the same effect as the curtain raising on the next act of a play: here’s some more action, for better or worse. It’s like “Dogville” with the sets filled in; watchably eccentric but rudderless.
August 01, 2014
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There’s an intense visceral quality to these emanations, which are brute, vivid reminders of all the liquid sloshing around inside us (under our thin skins) and that could, at any moment, pour out. This is language that at its most specific and horrifically familiar reverberates in your body and that — as in this admirably tough and unapologetically ugly movie — is an assertion of a deep humanity.
July 31, 2014
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Child Of God is a lurid backwoods exploitation cheapie that just happens to be based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy. As a McCarthy adaptation, it’s an abject failure; as a piece of art-damaged trash, it occasionally delivers the requisite squirms. Visually and thematically, it has less in common with No Country For Old Men or The Counselor than with ’90s shot-on-VHS gonzo efforts like Red Spirit Lake.
July 31, 2014
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If the film, with its longueurs and abrupt jumps, suggests a lack of design, it’s because the narrative attunes itself to the repetitive, disconnected temporality of Lester’s existence: DP Christina Voros’s free-roaming camera lumbers around after him, as if he were its documentary subject. The effect is to give Lester dignity, not to glamorize him—and to make us understand him a little…
July 30, 2014
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The more brilliant the novel, the more likely it is that its greatness can’t be divorced from the specific syntax of the author’s prose, and that a faithful film adaptation will wind up being a sterile illustration of narrative events stripped of all meaning. That’s decidedly the case with Franco’s dismal adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Child Of God, a novel written in a highly unorthodox style for which the film struggles in vain to find a visual equivalent.
July 29, 2014
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While the movie’s bold chapter markers and a late cameo from Franco himself as a seasoned vigilante hint at the directorial arrogance that, frankly, I expected going into the screening, Child of God’s moment-to-moment emphasis on character, the casual building of atmosphere and the general evasion of any announcements of Big Themes forms an unexpectedly different picture, one with an admirable balance of reverence for and self-imposed liberty from its source material.
September 27, 2013
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To his credit, Franco doesn’t soft-peddle the book’s squeamish aspects—murder, insanity and necrophilia, oh my!—though the film’s po-faced attempts to match McCarthy’s poetic, macabre prose don’t add much to this tale of rural misanthropy, either. Nor does Scott Haze’s all-or-nothing performance as antihero Lester Ballard, which doubles down on the repugnancy and ultimately devolves into a lot of upward glowering reminiscent of every third Kubrick character.
September 25, 2013
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Franco proceeds in a distressingly artless fashion, with extended takes of Lester struggling to lift a body, or screaming on a hillside, as devoid of notable, resonant undercurrents as a randomly highlighted, rainbow lens flare. Working again with cinematographer and constant collaborator Christina Voros… Franco’s general aesthetic is ugly and ambling as well, not so much because of its brownish-gray monochrome, but because it registers like the jerky result of a college kid wielding a DV cam.
September 24, 2013
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Franco hasn’t made an entertainment with added shock value. Taking his cue from McCarthy’s own text, which notes that Ballard is “a child of god, much like yourself,” he’s set his sights on creating a portrait of a truly disturbed man who reflects human nature back to us, albeit through a very distorted glass.
September 24, 2013
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Franco uses a lot of run and gun handheld camera to approximate Ballard’s mud-level viewpoint, but it obscures more than it reveals, losing Haze’s detailed work in the jumble. Though it inspired the most walkouts I’ve seen so far, the film is genuinely committed to its outré material, with no outraged morality to sully McCarthy’s original vision of what a truly free man might look like.
September 11, 2013
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Blame Cormac McCarthy, whose worst novel (by a mile) has been faithfully adapted here, for the fuzzy symbolism and for the ludicrous parameters of Lester’s character… but j’accuse James Franco all the same for making a movie out of such a dubious literary property, and for doing such a poor job of it. Everything feels feeble and chancy here, from the portentous and intermittent voiceover narration to the lazily deployed musical score to poor Haze’s horribly directed performance…
September 08, 2013
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We’re supposed to feel sympathy for [Lester], and maybe we would, if only Franco and his cinematographer, Christina Voros (who also shot As I Lay Dying), could figure out where to put the camera. Time and again I found myself looking at a wobbly shot of somebody’s slouched shoulder, or a not-very-interesting left ear, wondering what information, exactly, these visuals were intended to convey. Life is uncertain? Posture is important? Your guess is as good as mine.
September 03, 2013
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