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Sam Rockwell...well...Rocks!
SamLowry-21 April 1999
Sam Rockwell has been had. He lit up the screen in "Box of Moonlight," is a major player in the upcoming "Midsummer Night's Dream," and yet he didn't get equal billing for screen time in either of those films. What gives? In "Lawn Dogs" Rockwell is stunning as the lawn boy who accepts a little "rich" girl as a friend and gives her a new view of the world. The movie is rich in atmosphere and color. The central Southern United States has rarely appeared so docile and yet so menacing. Every time I thought I knew where "Lawn Dogs" was pulled another pleasant surprise. Mischa Barton is amazing as Devon Stockard, the little girl with more on her mind than selling cookies. This is truly one of the best American films of the 90's. If you like off-beat slices of America with a twisted view, then "Lawn Dogs" is the best movie you'll see in a long time. It is quite simply full of the magic, menace and imagination alive in the heads and hearts of little girls...about to become young women. Oh yeah, and give Sam Rockwell his due!
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A little bit of magic.
Hermit C-210 June 1999
This is the kind of movie that independent film fans search for and hope to find. It's well-written, acted and directed with a story that's off the beaten path a bit, to be sure. It concerns the odd relationship between two people who don't exactly fit in the world an upscale suburban housing community. One is a 10 -year old girl named Devon (Mischa Barton) whose parents want her to be the perfect little daughter. She'd rather live in her own world, one in which she entertains herself with her favorite fairy tale of the child-menacing witch, Baba Yaga. The other is a twentysomething yard worker named Trent (Sam Rockwell), who is treated in this paranoid community almost like a black South African under apartheid, i.e. get in, do you work and get out.

Both of them display their non-conformist behavior early on. She climbs out her bedroom window to her roof, takes off her nightgown and watches it magically float away into the night sky. He stops on his way home from work on a one-lane bridge, blocking the traffic, and proceeds to disrobe and take a leap into the river below. Devon gets interested in him, especially after she witnesses his blatant and subtle humiliation at a neighborhood cookout, where he's come to get paid for some work. She more or less stalks him at his mobile home, even spying on him making love to one of the community's young women, a girl who will barely acknowledge him otherwise. Trent tries to shoo Devon away at first, but he can't help but be flattered by the young girl's interest.

Of course the potential for misunderstanding in this kind of relationship is great and it inevitably happens. I feared that the movie was about to fly apart after Devon's father and some others confronted Trent, but the fantastic ending (fantastic in the sense of fantasy) made me smile. If you are looking for something different, this movie definitely qualifies.
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A hugely original and surprising drama.
sackleywhistle25 September 2002
I first saw this film on late night BBC in England and was half watching it while packing for college. By the half way mark, i was sucked in and couldn't not watch.

The first thing that will knock you out is Sam Rockwell. Over the last few years he has risen in fame due to high-profile parts in Charlie's Angels, The Green Mile and Mamet's Heist, but here is the arrival of a veritable acting talent. His is a simple, truthful unshowy performance that resonates throughout the film without crushing it. He is the film's heart, rather than a scene-stealer. As we learn more about his poor, white-trash lawn cutter, we sympathise and begin to realise how easily the reactions of others higher up on the food chain conspire to create chaos for him.

I won't give too much about the story away, because it frequently heads off in new, interesting directions, but essentially this is the story of Devon (newcomer child actor Mischa Barton) and the above mentioned Trent (Rockwell) and their relationship. He is poor, she comes from wealthy stock, but feels out of place in her materialistic world and they are both children of nature. What makes it compelling is that she knows this and revels in it and Trent has to be shown, by her.

John Duigan does a wonderful job of introducing strands and themes which at first seem offbeat and peculiar but which all add to the sense prejudice, division and isolation felt by these two brillaintly-wrought characters. Each find the other intriguing but are hesitant to become close because of others' values. Eventually they become friends and just as they accept this, the world around them turns on them and what started out as an irreverent comedy-drama, turns into something much darker and even terrifying.

Where the film goes from there, I will leave to you to discover. Please do, because this is a very unique film in American independent cinema. Much like the more high-profile American Beauty, what at first seems like character cliche and predictability rapidly leads you down the path least expected. Its beautifully shot, making full use of a handful of gorgeous locations, wonderfully acted, particularly by Barton and Rockwell, but also by the ever-reliably sleazy Christopher Mcdonald (Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore and Louise's husband in Thelma & Louise), the quietly strong Kathleen Quinlan and the lesser spotted Bruce McGill in one of his best roles as security guard Nash. The music is also peerless, at first playful and calm, building to a dramatic climax.

That climax is what makes this film stand head and shoulders above the rest. An emotional pay-off such as you have never seen in a film of this ilk. 9/10
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Moving and involving story of friendship which acts as an ode to the American poor
bob the moo3 August 2003
Trent is a young man living in a trailer in a wooded area beyond the suburbs. He makes a living cutting the massive lawns of the populace of a gated suburb village. He befriends a young girl from within the suburb, who herself has some stability issues, despite being only 10 years old. The two build a friendship despite the resentment towards the `white trash' Trent from within the suburb,

I didn't know what this film was about before I sat and watched it, reading the plot summary in the tv guide as the title sequence began, I wondered if I would bother, but I'm glad I did. The film works on several level – the most apparent of which is the simple story of a friendship that is threatened. This part works well as the friendship never seems forced and, although the spectre of sexual tension is there (in Trent occasionally feeling uncomfortable), it is not a strand that is actually part of their relationship.

This all works well due (in most part) to two great performances from Barton and Rockwell. Barton shows amazing maturity and ability to carry the role off without it being like many child stars (where it is clear they are forcing everything). Rockwell meanwhile is a mass of subtleties and little touches that make his character likeable.

However this part wouldn't work as well if it weren't for the wider theme of the trash being poorly treated by the smugger middle classes. This theme creates the reason for the threat to their friendship (more or less) but it also serves as a humbling attack on a class that lives a selfish, scared life behind gates with private security guards. Such places are increasingly common in America and this film is clear as to their effect on both those inside them as well as the wider community of America. Although it keeps a gentle tone for the most, the film depicts those in the suburb as selfish, aloof and fearful. Even more condemning about this depiction is that it never feels like they have been exaggerated or monsterised in any way!

The script is well written and certainly makes the actors jobs a lot easier – certainly Barton benefits from great dialogue and character development. Rockwell meanwhile benefits more from direction as much of his best work is not dialogue based. McDonald, Quinlan and McGill all do solid work in support. The end of the film is a little worrying as it appears to veer off at a tangent, but the final sentiment is beautifully presented and encouraging (albeit due to a child's apparent naivety).

Overall this is a lovely film that I'm very glad I watched. About more than just an adult/child friendship, this film is moving and involving in both it's core plot and it's wider themes.
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Brave and perceptively written drama
fertilecelluloid27 December 2004
This superb film, directed by John Duigan, the gifted director of THE YEAR MY VOICE BROKE, is about a friendship between a young girl (Mischa Barton of "The OC") and a free-spirited young, adult man (Sam Rockwell).

It's self-aware enough to acknowledge the inherent sensitivity of its subject matter, but it doesn't cave into conservative conclusions about how such a relationship ought to be portrayed.

At heart, LAWN DOGS is about trust, not the death of innocence or the festering political correctness all around us that sees danger in every unconventional relationship. It does touch on the subject of sexual abuse, but it doesn't come at it from the angle you'd suspect...and that's the whole point, isn't it? Sexual abuse, for the most part, usually visits as someone you've known well enough to trust completely.

Beyond its politics, this is a unique, bracing fantasy that is more European than American (or Australian) in its view world both morally and visually. The climax is an unexpected treat and its moral resolution arrives just in the nick of time.

Sumptuously photographed and written with great intelligence by Naomi Wallace, it dares to be erotic, provoking, unconventional and incisive.

Don't pass it up if you get an offer.
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Innocence triumphs over lawn fetishists
Philby-320 June 1999
Warning: Spoilers
"Lawn Dogs" is a most un-Hollywood-like American movie but that's not surprising; the director John Duigan is a British-born Australian ("The Year My Voice Broke", "Flirting") and the production companies seem to have been largely British. The satire is biting and the fairy tale elements are not sugar-coated. Ten year old Devon (Mischa Barton) has recently moved in with her parents to "Camelot Gardens", one of those new country housing developments favoured by rising executives with mercenary values and no taste, let alone any culture. This one happens to be outside Louisville, Kentucky, but similar places are to be found outside cities all over the US. These are the houses of the undeserving rich. Huge, barn-like houses are plonked in the middle of their treeless lots and surrounded by vast swaths of ever-growing luxuriant grass. After all, this is Bluegrass country.

The lawn dogs are the working class boys who are continuously employed to keep the grass down. They do not enjoy high status and must leave the premises after 5 pm. Devon, a highly imaginative kid who makes up fairy stories, becomes friendly with one of the dogs, Trent (Sam Rockwell), who is in his early 20s. She meets him when sent out by her mother to sell gingerbread for the Girl Scouts (called Rangers in the film). Trent at first tries to put her off, knowing full well what people might think, but Devon persists, and a warm but innocent relationship develops. Trent is a not over-bright but slightly rebellious dog and correctly sees in Devon a spirit like his own. Early in the film he holds up the traffic in an entertaining way while cooling off in the river after a hard day's mowing.

The residents of "Camelot Gardens" are all cardboard cut-out awful, Devon's parents especially. Life is so stultifying that most of them seem to be involved in illicit sex. A bored kid steals all the outside lamps and hurls them into the nearby Ohio river. Two teenagers (one of whom has been screwing Devon's mother and the other of whom has designs on Trent's body) put sugar into Trent's mower engine, destroying his livelihood in the mistaken belief he has taken a couple of their CDs. One girl is quite happy to use Trent as a convenient screw but draws the line at inviting him to her house. The postmen and security guy (an ex-cop) aren't so bad, at least from Trent's point of view. They recognise another working class stiff when they see one.

Naturally Trent and Devon are not going to be left alone, but Duigan gives us what is literally a fairy-tale ending, a bit of Kentucky magic realism to match "Bread and Chocolate". The real world is told to sod off, in fact.

I'm not sure the residents of Jefferson and Oldham Counties, who co-operated in the making of the film, will be too pleased with the portrayal of the "Camelot Gardens" residents. But the film isn't really about them. The relationship between Trent and Devon is more older brother - kid sister than anything else though there is an undercurrent of eroticism in Devon's curiosity about Trent's scars and her desire to reveal her own impressive scar from heart surgery. Their joint escapades are pretty innocent and the town's reaction to them completely out of all proportion.

Mischa Devon and Sam Rockwell give two well-rounded and well-connected performances. "Lawn Dogs" an offbeat, pleasantly paced film about friendship and the things that matter in life. Freedom, it says, is more important than financial security, and the one should never be confused with the other. At least if you're 22 or younger.
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Magical realism with a twist
Libretio9 January 2005

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

The haves and have-nots are put under the microscope in John Duigan's diverting drama LAWN DOGS, and it's the haves who come up wanting in every respect. Sam Rockwell (CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND) is the penniless gardener-cum-handyman who makes a fragile living tending the lawns of contemptuous rich folk, all of whom view him with deep suspicion whilst indulging their own dubious peccadilloes behind closed doors. Mischa Barton (THE SIXTH SENSE, TV's "The O.C.") is a lonely 10 year old girl who's been shielded from the world by her wealthy parents following a recent health scare (she has a faulty heart), but she dares to strike up a friendship with Rockwell after stumbling onto his ramshackle home in the woods, a friendship which she pursues against Rockwell's wishes, until their 'secret' is forced into the open and grossly misinterpreted by Barton's vengeful family.

While the moneyed set lives in antiseptic splendour and conceals its hypocrisy behind security measures of every description, Rockwell's character enjoys an open life in a beautiful forest environment, like the witch Baba Yaga in Barton's favourite fairy tale. In fact, there's a magical, otherworldly quality to much of the film (rendered explicit in the final reel), though the central narrative is fairly low-key and revolves around Rockwell's frequent encounters with the dissolute low-lifes who dare to think themselves superior. With his wiry frame and white trash southern accent, Rockwell strikes something of a romantic figure (watch out for his full-frontal nude scene early in the film), though he never stoops to eccentricity or excess. For one so young, Barton is excellent in such a demanding role, and she holds her own against an experienced adult cast (including Christopher McDonald and Kathleen Quinlan as Barton's narrow-minded parents, and Eric Mabius as the rich jock who can barely conceal his attraction to Rockwell). Beautiful cinematography by Elliot Davis (KING OF THE HILL).
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Ok movie, but VERY misrepresented on the packaging
paintbrush_20038 March 2004
From the picture on the cover (see the picture on the main details page!) and reading the back of the video jacket for this movie, I expected this to be a film about suburban wives sleeping with the hired help. Nope. It's a movie about a slightly sick [in the mental and physical sense] young girl [about 10 or 11 years old?] who befriends one of the guys hired to mow the lawns in her gated community. While the guy is reluctant at first, the friendship that forms between them is actually fun to watch. That's what makes the movie interesting. But while the end has to do with the class system talked about on the video jacket, this is a story about the girl and her "lawn dog" friend, with the parents and their repressive lifestyle being almost incidental to the story until the end. This is an interesting movie to watch, but I wish the people who write the blurbs on the video jackets would actually WATCH the movies once in a while.
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A storming film that no-one will ever notice, and more fool them..
WilliamSG8 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
**Possible Spoilers**

For starters, "Lawn Dogs" is one of those movies that Hollywood could never produce. Good, I say. I look forward to all those films that haven't been tainted by Hollywood's monetary grip.

Firstly, I'd rather not write a review that details every scene. I prefer to not ruin the movie experience for those not fortunate enough to have seen it already. However, I'll still mention a few moments that set it apart from all others.

This movie is about prejudice and love, about close-mindedness and the power of friendship. When you watch the movie for the first time, you get the feeling of a community very much cut off from the world and reality. It has a very 'desert island feel' about it. There is actually so much discrimination in this movie as to be rather frightening in its true-to-life nature.

Sam Rockwell plays Trent in his finest performance on-screen to date. He was actually a superb choice for this movie, having the perfect 'look' for the part. He befriends 10 year old Devon (the astonishing Mischa Barton who should, in my opinion, have been Oscar nominated). Devon is innocent, sweet and trusting - who has yet to be corrupted or taught to discriminate against others of a lower status than her. Morton and Clare (Christopher McDonald and Kathleen Quinlan) brilliantly play her parents who attempt to pry Devon away from Trent throughout the course of the film, trying to make foul of any kindness he has shown her. This makes for painful, yet brilliantly viewable scenes of maliciousness.

There is of course the blatant moral nature of this movie. An obvious one is to look at oneself before judging others. One simple example of this is the scene with Quinlan in her back garden (which I won't spoil). Morton is so wrapped up in the affairs of his daughter and Trent that he fails to notice his own wife. The irony of this is so perfectly fitting and is not resolved by the end of the movie. Angie Harmon plays the user and abuser "girlfriend" very well which just furthers the point the director was trying to get across. Trent is used physically and emotionally in this movie and you can't help but pity his useless situation. Normally when one watches a movie (generally Hollywood movies) you can shout out 'but why didn't you do 'x'?!" In the case of "Lawn Dogs" you find yourself in the troubling position of not knowing what to tell Trent to do. The 'not knowing' makes for interesting viewing as the tale unfolds.

Many people have complained about the fairy-tale nature of the ending, but I see it as beautiful and fitting. This movie is not a fairy-tale. The ending is not wrapped up by any means. Who says the magic at the end of the movie actually happened? Perhaps Trent threw the various items out of his truck as a testament to how strong his friendship with Devon was? Perhaps he imagined the magic as a result of Devon's love? Perhaps, in this community of discriminators, the love from an innocent child took him away at speed from those who would hold him down.

I'll let you decide.

As the end credits roll, you don't receive the satisfaction that only Hollywood can give you when the good guy shoots the bad guy. You're given the satisfaction that friendship and love has won through, but not in the dramatic way only Hollywood can give you. What else really matters?

To sum up, "Lawn Dogs" is such a sparkling gem that didn't need Hollywood's money to buy it, and is all the better for that. A wonderful film I highly recommend. Watch it by yourself in a quiet room and let it envelop you.

(Apologies if some parts of the review didn't make sense - I'd rather leave the discovering part for when/if you actually watch the movie.)
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An unforgettable experience of magic!
Chris-37319 January 1999
'Lawn Dogs' may well be the best movie to come out of America this decade. It's a film that lazily unravels itself, yet succeeds in impacting like a sledgehammer, and does so in such a perfect, unforced and magical way that the experience of viewing it leaves the movie goer completely fulfilled, perhaps like no other film ever has before it.

Even more intriguing is the difficulty one has at distinguishing exactly why it is that this film works so flawlessly and just how such a slow moving film can leave a person so thoroughly energized and rejuvenated.

Only a few movies of recent times have even come close to carrying off this irony- think 'Fargo' or better still, 'Love Serenade' (interestingly and perhaps not coincidentally also directed by an Australian).

Every single element of 'Lawn Dogs' is magical. From the direction, cinematography, music and fairytale infused storyline which deals with the universally important issues of friendship, self-identity, family, community and class divisions, to the powerhouse performances from the two lead performers and amazing supporting cast.

John Diugan has demonstrated with 'Lawn Dogs' that he is indeed a true alchemist of the film world that can mix and dabble with the elements to produce pure, solid gold.
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Fairy-Tale Inspiration
Siskbert12 April 1999
I am baptized in the blood, `bathtubs full,' of wild dogs, chicken dinners, and a little fairy princess. Last night I viewed "Lawn Dogs" for the second time in 5 days. I just couldn't return the tape without another look-see, even if it makes Block Buster $2 richer and me $2 poorer, for the awareness and inspiration this fairy-tale masterpiece has imbued me with are priceless. Like Trent in the film, I am alive with the hope that flight from any kind of poverty, financial or spiritual, is possible.

On the surface, the story seems to revolve around the relationship between a young man, Trent, and a little girl, Devon, and between the two struggling economic classes that they come from. But the magical cinematography throughout the film, and more than that, Devon's running fairy-tale narration, allude to a deeper meaning in the film that is revealed absolutely in the last five minutes. After all, there is nothing in the world around us that is not represented by symbols within us, and how can we tell whether the inner symbols we deal with represent things outside us, or things within us? It is natural for the world to discourage a relationship between a sexually-active male, and a prepubescent, vulnerable, hungry-for-friends female. It is also natural for the world to discourage an individual from relating to the power within himself, perhaps represented by said young female, to imagine and pursue a better life for himself, when it means he will flee the status quo that makes the rest of the world comfortable.

The setting is a highly artificial, unabashedly bourgeois, gated community in Kentucky, `Camelot Gardens' (see, we're already alluding to fairy tales), and the surrounding countryside, wherein Trent lives in a trailer, making, what can loosely be called, a "living" by mowing the lawns of the rich in Camelot Gardens. The two heroes first meet when Devon happens upon Trent's trailer while wandering into the woods to sell cookies (her capitalist parents' idea), reciting to herself a version of the Russian fairy-tale about the contest between a little girl, like herself, and the witch named `Baba Yaga.' She continues her relationship with the at-first-reluctant Trent, as he continues to mow her parents' lawn. Whom she identifies Baba Yaga with, that is, who is evil in the world, evolves with the story. In the end, she realizes where the true evil lies, and uses the magic charms of her youthful idealism to aid the flight of the oppressed.

I really enjoyed this film. It not only inspires hope, but also possesses a depth sorely lacking in the majority of American films. Much of the symbolism in the story seems to be lifted directly from classical mythology: From the open nakedness of both heroes in the beginning, a necessary reduction of the self to its bare essentials before it can be remade into something new, Trent holding up traffic to dive naked from a one-lane bridge into the local river, a kind of spectacular baptism into a new beginning, and Devon removing her nightgown to bay from her rooftop, like some essential mythic beast imploring the gods of night; to the adorning, i.e. honoring, of the tree outside the door of Trent's trailer, the Sacred Tree, Ygdrasil, the Tree of Life, so honoring life itself, and the demands that life makes of us; to the maenadic frenzy of the dancing chicken feet, a maddening after-chicken-death/chicken-dinner dithyramb; to Trent's conquest over the infernal hound, a Doberman named `Tracker,' who guards the homes of Camelot Gardens, and perhaps guards as well the path to personal power, the hound who, like Cerberus, turns away all cowards (chickens) from the inner realms; to the magic towel and comb of divine deliverance (more on these two symbols below) at the end; the story is full of age-old symbols that affect us deeply, transforming us or renewing us, without our knowing how.

The following passage is taken from Marie-Louise von Franz's `Interpretation of Fairy Tales.' It will help the reader to understand the meaning of the magic comb and towel. (In von Franz's story, a red handkerchief substitutes for the towel.)

Says von Franz:

The girl runs, throwing her magic comb and her red handkerchief behind her. Bestrewing one's trail with objects is characteristic of the magic flight. This act of throwing away things of value is a sacrifice; one throws things over one's shoulder to the dead, or to spirits, or to the devil, to propitiate those whom we dare not face. It may seem panicky to abandon valuable possessions when one is escaping, but one who stiffens himself into a defensive attitude is easily cut down by an assailant stronger than himself, whereas stripping oneself gives mobility. There are situations in which one absolutely has to give up wanting anything, and in this way one slips out from under; one is not there any longer, so nothing more can go wrong. When one is confronted by a hopelessly wrong situation, one must just make a drastic leap to the bottom of passive simplicity, and from there one can live it out.

What is more, the objects which have been sacrificed generally transform themselves into obstacles for the pursuer. The comb at once turns into a forest and becomes a part of nature – the hair of mother earth. Its transformation into a natural object suggests that originally it was an integral part of nature. Actually, there is no thought or instrument or object that has not originated from nature; that is, from the unconscious psyche. One sacrifices to the unconscious what once was wrested from it.

The comb is used to arrange and confine the hair. Hair is a source of magic power or mana. Ringlets of hair, preserved as keepsakes, are believed to connect one individual with another over a distance. Cutting the hair and sacrificing it often means submission to a new collective state – a giving up and a rebirth. The coiffure is frequently an expression of a cultural Weltanschauung. Primitive folk tales speak of demons being deloused and combed when they are caught, which means that the confusion in the unconscious has to be straightened out, ordered, and made conscious. Because of this meaning, hair in wild disarray is often dreamed of at the start of an analysis. The comb, therefore, represents a capacity for making one's thoughts ordered, clear, and conscious.

The red handkerchief that the girl gives up becomes a flame soaring from earth to heaven. To abandon the staff and comb meant not attempting to marshal herself or to think out a plan. Now the flame indicates that she puts an inner distance between herself and her feelings and emotions. She is reduced to a passive simplicity.

In the tale, the gaping jaws devour the forest and spit water on the flame. Water and fire battle in the unconscious, and in the meantime the girl escapes between the opposites.
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Must see Mischa Barton in this film
smatysia31 May 2004
Mischa Barton really blew me away in this film. I usually don't care much for child actors, and I went into this film thinking that way. But Barton seemed, with few exceptions, to BE her character. But there's a lot more than just pretty good acting from a precocious child. Barton was a major league charmer. You just couldn't take your eyes off her whenever she was on-screen. Sam Rockwell was decent, and no one else really showed much except maybe Angie Harmon in a small part. (She did have a rare topless scene in this film) But most of the characters do weird things, with no tie-in at all to any reason for their conduct. I think this may be thought by some to be character development, but I think it is either laziness or insufficiently imaginative screenwriters. But in any case you should check out this film just to see Barton. Grade: B
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One of 98's very best
E.J.26 January 1999
Lawn Dogs left me breathless. Thank God that small, quality films like this one pop up every now and then. Two others that I'd recommend if you loved this film are "Eye of God", and "Little Boy Blue".
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lofty intentions, hollow results
happylittletree17 February 2006
The primary reason Lawn Dogs is so maddening is that it's horribly obvious in its efforts to be irreverent. Oh look, a free-spirited girl scout befriends grown trailer trash of the opposite gender, isn't that strange & befuddling? Oh look, the lawn boy blocks cars on a bridge to casually strip naked & perform an Olympic-caliber dive into the lake while everyone watches, isn't that arty & unexpected? There are some interesting images that might intrigue you, but that's just high style with little content outside of a handful of good performances.

saving graces? An adorable Mischa Barton is excellent as curious young Devon-- she was certainly talented at this age, though that might be hard for some to believe since she's inexplicably worsened with age (or laziness?). You might find flaws with her in Lawn Dogs if you're searching for them, but it's probably because you can see the Marissa Cooper in her and because Devon is a cliché construction: precocious youth represents innocence, revolts against the hypocrisy surrounding her. I've seen it, read it, heard it before, and never before did I have to roll my eyes with pseudo-evocative comments like "I don't like children. They smell like TV". A 10-year-old abstracting via synesthesia to get her disillusioned point across? That's abusing any willingness I had left with this movie to suspend my disbelief. But that's not her fault. Overall she's endearing, engaging, even funny, which makes her weekly exhibitions of "acting" on The OC all the more unforgivable. Of course, the #1 reason to watch this movie is Sam Rockwell, who I have yet to see give an uninspired performance in anything. Always bold, unusually brilliant, he'll strangely affect you whether you want him to or not. It's actors like him who make you realize why you love the movies. The relationship between Barton & Rockwell's characters is the third saving grace. Read: the problems with this film do not lie in the performances.

I'm not going to argue with anyone if they love the movie, there may be moments that resonate with you. But like it for it's strengths and not because you're mistaking well-shot moments of quiet insipidness for moments of meaningful poignancy. If I had seen it 10 years ago when I was 13 and just starting to consistently watch indies then I might have enjoyed it more. But I've seen enough to know that Lawn Dogs chews up & spits out ideas & techniques pilfered from preexisting offbeat movies without actually having any real insights of its own. The overt symbolism between class differences is so obvious it's insulting, and comments meant to be profound are executed with as much depth & insight as angsty teen poetry. Now let's count the painfully obvious cliché's, shall we?

1) guy from wrong side of the tracks as society's scapegoat 2) unlikely relationship between kindred spirits: this usually comes in the form of crossing age, gender, & class differences 3) Projecting a myth/fable/fairy tale/work of literature/history lesson as a conscious allusion to the themes & realities of the film. Yeah, I read several versions of Baba Yaga (also known as Bony Legs) when I was younger and it doesn't work so well here as, say, the use of "Peter Pan" in "ET" or countless other movies where this technique is used. 4) precocious youngster represents natural goodness & guides the action of the story 5) manicured lawns and pristine suburban sprawl represent falseness, superficiality, a loss of individuality

None of these would be remotely problematic if they were better executed with some originality. Think how well the show "Weeds" pulls off #5. But I digress…

Lawn Dogs says little and means even less. This movie is like a sentimental blubbering loner who sits, cries, whines, but is never for a moment aware enough to know why. You take an interest, you feel kind of bad...but in the long-run you're not really sure why on earth you're supposed to care.
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Forget Hollywood blockbuster's, rent this for a night!
gundamgirl238624 December 2002
I happened to find this on TV about a year ago and I haven't forgot it since. I missed about the first 30 minutes but watched the rest with wonder.

I connected so much with this film and Devon in particular. I rented the dvd a few months after and watched it twice in one night. The acting in here is amazing. Everyone is right on key in their parts! I know you may think well a movie about a friendship between an upper class little girl and a white trash man isn't much for entertainment but believe me it's more than that! You really pull for Devon and Trent throughout the entire movie until the fantasy like ending.

There is just so much in this film that anyone could relate too. It's a beautiful story that you won't likely forget or brush off. If you're looking for a great overlooked little movie that is going to actually get your mind working please rent this!

10 out of 10 stars!!
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A little known masterpiece, one of the sweetest films ever made
neilanderson1 August 2002
This film will blow you away. Whatever your expectations may be, it will surprise and delight you. Mischa Barton is a revelation, turning in a precocious performance as young Devon that signals the emergance of a major talent. Sam Rockwell provides excellent support; in this tale of forbidden and dangerous friendship. Devon longs to escape her claustrophobic existence in her walled community, and uses Trent (Rockwell) to help her break away from her miserable existence. The supporting cast of characters, a classy and bitter take on modern suburban america, reflect well the virtues of Trent and Devon. Different, independent and with a wondeful darkness to her personality, it is often shocking to see just how knowing young Devon is.

This is such a beautiful film, everyone should own it. A very modern tale of innocence and its inherent dangers; watch this film and let a young girl named Devon teach you about life. 10 out of 10
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Rich Tapestry of Film
EEMargolin7 July 2002
What a wonderful and rich tapestry of characters and development of youthful imagination. The gentle and articulate direction of John Dugan (who also directed such films as Romero, The Year My Voice Broke and The Wide Sargasso Sea) flows simply from one moment to the next, and the actors seem to develop such a sense of style with their characters that you find yourself truly interested in what will happen.

I sat thinking for moments after the film of the minor characters, which deftly left indelible impression upon my thoughts. The gentle fingerprints of this film make me truly hopeful for American cinema. This is a wonderful film to see when taking time to embrace the mystery and magic of story telling set to film. Truly, this is an artistic jewel.

I want to also comment on how wonderful it was to see a film that wasn't wrecked by soundtrack. The pace of music set to this treasure was almost sublime. Everything worked well. I just wish there was a commentary feature to the DVD.
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Thoroughly engaging modern fable
baggins3931 August 2001
As I write, I'm desperately keeping my eyes peeled for a glimpse of Sam Rockwell's star on the rise. I've only recently had the privilege of witnessing this fine young actor in "Lawn Dogs" and "Box of Moonlight" and I was mightily impressed. Not unlike John Turturro, (with whom he stars in "Box of Moonlight"), who has reduced the art of acting to a pursuit seemingly as effortless as breathing, Rockwell exudes a calmness on screen and he simply becomes his character. This is a rare and true gift. Just as well then, that both the aforementioned movies are worthy of his talent. "Lawn Dogs" sees Rockwell play a disaffected loner, Trent, holed up in a dilapidated trailer in the woods and reduced to mowing the lawns and tending the trees of the ample grounds of an affluent neighbouring estate, constructed to all intents and purpose like a heavily fortified island, replete with twenty-four hour security. Recent arrivals to this whiter than white suburban oasis, are a married couple, played by the ever dependable Christopher MacDonald and Kathleen Quinlan, and their delicate, sickly daughter Devon, played with uncanny ability by newcomer Mischa Barton. From the outset, it appears that all is well with this ordered paradise, once the subjugated labourers are released with a flourish of crisp, clean legal tender back to the nether regions of society and the hatches are well and truly battened down for the onset of another peaceful night. Trent certainly appears to echo the sentiment, celebrating the release and the end of a day's hard graft with a naked plunge from a bridge into a nearby river. This one act alone serves to set his character's liberal, carefree and thus almost directly opposing nature in conflict with the inhabitants of the estate. He becomes an object of illicit desire for the young women and a source of competition for the young men, particularly for a pair of well-heeled types who tear around in a formidable sports/utility vehicle with a rather testy Doberman pinscher. Indeed Trent proves true to his potential as he frequently "entertains" one of the young ladies in his humble dwelling who appears more than drawn by his animal magnetism. This is but one of a number of clandestine meetings of the mind(and body), that belie the vapid exterior of the estate, an obvious microcosm of greater American suburbia. Out of this miasma comes a shining beacon. Devon is more than a closeted patient in a sickly-sweet homestead. We gradually become aware that even at a tender age, she is quite the most virtuous and intensely interesting member of the community. We learn that she has a serious heart condition and many operations behind her, not the least of which has resulted in an enormous scar which runs the length of her chest. The many traumas that one so young has been forced to endure cultivates an incredible imagination and sensitivity to her surroundings in Devon and she experiences the unseemly underbelly of her neighbourhood, matter of fact-ly, as she wanders about. Her father is a gormless conformist who fails to realise his wife is being serviced regularly by one of the young dudes. Devon also receives some wholly unwanted attention from the same source and we witness a long overdue break from this diseased palace when she happens upon the miserable Trent, who conversely, is gradually withdrawing further and further into a virtual prison, only venturing out to mow Devon's lawn once in a while. From this point the two quickly become inseparable. Devon is literally bursting at the seems with a youthful exuberance that appears to have been stifled for so long and is maturing rapidly into a young woman. She paints Trent's empty emotional canvas with vivid colours and he slowly blossoms, the child in him re-surfacing once again. It is immediately obvious that the age disparity renders such a relationship fraught with danger. Trent is careful to remain a figure of paternal seniority to Devon and the bond between them develops not unlike that of an orphaned child who is unexpectedly re-united with a benevolent father. Devon by the very nature of a young girl's relationship with her father in the formative stages sees Trent as parent, potential lover, friend. Writer Wallace handles the explosive subject matter well; The constitution of Trent and Devon's relationship is utterly wholesome. It is only from an external viewpoint that it might appear unhealthy and Director Duigan conjures up a few genuinely cringe inducing scenes as the viewer is struck by the inherent potential for disaster, namely when Trent admits to possessing a scar also on his chest as the result of a shotgun blast. A mutual examination that both he and Devon engage in almost reduces the viewer to the role of look-out, so desperate does one become to spirit them through the minefield. Both have become painfully disenfranchised from the careful nurturing of a strong familial bond; Devon is but a worrisome work in progress to her noisome parents and Trent has grown apart from his terminally ill father and world-weary mother, unable perhaps to ameliorate their suffering in his present incarnation. Devon and he desperately need each other at this stage in their existence and it's difficult not to wish them well. The denouement, then, is particularly admirable as it refuses to submit to glib sentimentality or unwarranted pathos. All we are left with is the complexity of their tryst and the repercussion of its fateful resolution.
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This Dog Deserves A Blue Ribbon
Bronx-217 June 2001
I have long enjoyed John Duigan's work from Australia (Winter of Our Dreams, Sirens), but did not know that Lawn Dogs was his until the credits rolled. What a remarkable (fairy) tale Mr. Duigan has given us!

Sam Rockwell is as perfect as Trent as he was The Kid in Tom DiCillo's Box of Moonlight. At first Trent seems like any dead-end guy who might cut your grass -- until he parks his old pickup on a one-lane bridge and strips naked, stopping traffic (and a few hearts) as he executes a perfect dive into the river far below.

His at-first-reluctant relationship with the girl Devon (Mischa Barton) blossoms in so many unexpected directions, from dancing on a truck roof to Bruce Springsteen to catching a chicken. You never have any idea where you're headed, but the ride is worthwhile and unforgettable.

The ending is too good to spoil, but will someone PLEASE tell me how they filmed the water-over-the-road sequence?
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Highly Recommended
princy1 October 2000
This is one of the best movies I have seen all year. There is an amazing blend of surrealism and realism that makes this movie work. The overuse of color and the picture perfect scenery used in creating Devon's neighborhood allows the audience to see the artificial world she lives in. This is offset very well by Devon's more realistic and down to earth life style.

I can continue to ramble on about how great this movie is, but really you must see it for yourself.

An outstanding success!
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An unique and wonderful movie.
Rayvyn15 September 2000
Lawn Dogs is original in that it does not follow any set movie pattern. Instead it follows it's own path. It has familiar elements but presents them in a unique way. It is hard to put into words the subtle nuances in this movie. The ending is surprising, disappointing and great all rolled into one. I won't give it away. It has to be seen. It was hard to find a bad performance by any of the actors in this movie. Lawn Dogs is a movie for anyone who likes movies about childhood and friendship.
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This is my favorite movie of all time!
disseria5 February 2006
A beautifully made modern day fairy tale that lingers with you long after the credits stop rolling. This movie has it all! The cinematography is breathtaking, the soundtrack is haunting and the writing is superb. Watching this movie is like peeling an onion. Every time you pull back a layer, there's another one underneath. Every time I watch this movie, I learn something new, and as strange as it may sound, I feel like I grow a little more as a person. It is a wonderful little gem of a movie with thousands of tiny details hidden within it waiting to be found. The care with which this movie was made is obvious from beginning to end, overall, a stunning piece of work.
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Oh so precious
MW3211 August 2007
Let me admit up front that I turned this movie off after a half-hour. I'm a big fan of quirky, low-budget movies with odd characters, but movies that attempt to satirize contemporary mores need to have characters whose actions have some relationship to the way human beings would act in the real world. I didn't believe one second of the part of this movie I saw. The parents and community cop were straw people and the worst kind of clichés. Nobody, no matter how quirky and counter-culture, would stop in the middle of a bridge, strip naked, and dive into a creek while holding up a line of traffic. If he did, the people being held up wouldn't just sit there and watch. No ten-year-old girl would know the make and model of an old pickup truck. No---these are many other scenes were just the screenwriter's lame ways of pounding into our heads that the sympathetic characters were offbeat and charming and the unsympathetic characters were stupid and lacking in imagination. I can't believe anybody would rate this movie higher than a 3 or 4. The fact that this film could even get made and released is symptomatic of how low modern movie standards have fallen. It's really bad.
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Why did this film get such great reviews????
I watched LAWN DOGS for the second time and was again puzzled that this film got such great reviews. Oh, the performances were fine. But the ill logic that permeates this piece, as demonstrated by the characters and situations, are entirely unforgivable. I felt my intelligence insulted until, twenty minutes before the ending, I turned it off. I just couldn't take it anymore.

Before elaborating on that, though, I found it disturbing that a ten year old girl was in the center of what was a very adult film.

Second, I thought the character of Devon was pretty, well, awful. Her behavior, her thoughtlessness, I found to be unlikable. Some things she did were entirely senseless.

Trent was equally problematic to me. His language (I'm no stranger to profanity, but most decent people try to curb it around impressionable kids). Still, I found him a bit more likable than Devon.

If unlikable characters make a film for you, then LAWN DOGS might b your cup of tea.

Now, to the ill logic. Trent, 20s, tells Devon, 10, to keep their friendship a secret...and then does everything, it seems, to broadcast it! Repeatedly!

At a key point in the story, he commits an act that would and will most assuredly get him in trouble and then, instead of doing the obvious thing to minimize trouble for himself, does just the thing to incriminate himself!

There is sooo much I could say about this film but I don't want to give away spoilers. Suffice it to say I found LAWN DOGS to be overrated and ill logical. It relies on evoking sympathy for two "misunderstood" protagonists but they are rendered in such a way that they come across as stupid and repugnant. That does not a good movie make. I wanted to like Devon and Trent. But I just couldn't. And that was a shame for a movie that has such a promising premise--a premise that, in fact, has been explored to better effect in other films.
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What Exactly Was The Point?
IcyRoses1 June 2010
So, I just got done watching this unending movie, and was just wondering what was the point? Many pointless scenes just thrown together and make absolutely no sense. Sam Rockwell does a good job, but his unneeded accent got on my nerves. Little Mischa Barton is just as bad as a kid, she needed a good acting coach even then. And don't even get my started on the's literally all over the place! If you like pointless movies about weird people, then this is for you. It has potential, but ruins it with the story and incredibly weird scenes. I mean, what's the deal with Angie Harmon in this? So we could see her naked? PLEASE! So, if all you "fans" could explain it to me, I'm here.
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