Black Rock


If Only Everything In Life Were So Easily Resolved

Main Cast: Katie Aselton and Lake Bell.

Director: Katie Aselton.

There’s a writing quote that, I believe, is attributed to Toni Morrison that says, “If there’s a book you want to read that hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I believe the same holds true for any art form. This is the approach director and actress Katie Aselton took when she wanted to, according to Wikipedia, “direct a thriller that audiences would see as realistic.” She came up with the story, her husband Mark Duplass (Jeff, Who Lives at Home) wrote the script, and Katie directed and acted in it.

Black Rock is the story of three lifelong friends reuniting on an island off the coast of Maine for a few days of much-needed bonding. Several years earlier, Lou (Lake Bell, “Surface”) slept with Abby’s (Aselton’s) boyfriend. The two haven’t spoken since, but now Sarah (Kate Bosworth, Superman Returns) wants them to make up, so she’s arranged this get-together without telling each other that the other would be there.

When they arrive and see the deal, they decide well, we’re here, so whatever.

Their trip is interrupted, however, when three hunters emerge from the woods on the island. Lou recognizes one, Henry, as the little brother of one of their classmates. He’s recently returned from Iraq, with two Army buddies in tow, intent on doing some hunting, but game is scarce. That’s okay, Abby says, we’ve got Spaghetti-Os and booze. So the six start drinking by the campfire.

Abby gets really drunk, flirts with Henry, and beckons him to join her in the woods. Things heat up, they kiss, they get horizontal, Henry gets excited, Abby says stop, Henry says no, Abby bashes him in the head with a rock. It was self-defense, meant only to get him off of her. Instead, it kills him.

Derek and Alex, his Army buddies, FREAK out. “Get your gun,” Derek says.

The girls try to run, but are knocked out and tied up on the beach. When they come to, Derek and Alex are arguing over whether to kill them or not. Abby confronts Derek, calls him a coward, so he unties her so they can face off on even ground. This allows Lou and Sarah to get away too and the girls run off in different directions, finally meeting up at an old fort they’d constructed as kids.

Now it’s a fight to the death, boys against girls, over something that never needed to escalate as far as it did.

Now, my problem with Black Rock isn’t, as I’ve seen in several other reviews, a question of right or wrong, was Abby asking for it, or should Henry have stopped. There’s NO question. Obviously, Abby was within her rights to beat the shit out of Henry if it came to it.

No, my problem with Black Rock is that, at 79 minutes, the plot just isn’t complicated enough.

The girls get away, then try to sneak out to their boat, but one of them is killed, while the other two run off again. The other two decide to make some weapons and fight back, but this leads directly into the climax of the movie, leaving no room for further complications. To really add tension and suspense to this movie, we needed a good 15 extra minutes. The girls making weapons and deciding to fight back needed to lead into one of the men dying, and one of the girls is wounded, so the other one grabs her and they retreat again, leaving the surviving man to try and help his fallen comrade.

The wounded girl is incapacitated to the point she can’t go any further. She may even die at this point. Either action then leads the remaining girl to buckle down and become the killing machine these kind of movies require in the end. It’s a survival movie, which requires that the last scene involve a full-on battle to the death. Sure the movie, as is, contains that big battle, but having occurred directly as a result of the girls’ “assault” on the boys’ camp, it’s really not that suspenseful. In fact, it’s two on one at this point, which hardly feels that dangerous.

Also, the movie paints the war vets as animals. They are devoid of logic or self control, and their only thrill in life is “the hunt”. Really? Please.

The movie looks really great, was well-produced, and I thought the women did excellent jobs in their roles. The mens’ roles felt too one-dimensional to me, though, and I couldn’t take them seriously.

But all that is minor compared to the simple fact that, at 79 minutes, this story ended well before it had any dramatic right to. It felt underdeveloped and a bit rushed. And that sucks, because I sought this movie for a while before I found it on DVD. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m glad I got it used for only a few bucks. I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time with it–there wasn’t much TO waste on it–as I think Katie Aselton is someone to watch for in the future, and I always like Lake Bell, who has now proved she can do serious, when previously I’d only seen her funny. But I definitely think the “over before it had a chance to start” plot really hurts this movie, diminishes the impact, and renders the situation only half as dramatic as it could, and SHOULD, have been.

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