Chopra's sympathetically observed study of a teenage girl trembling on the brink of womanhood is adapted from a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, and sometimes it shows. It begins, deceptively, like a standard 'coming of age' picture, with Laura Dern's gawky girlishness and tough relationship with her perplexed parents deftly sketched in. But Dern is left alone in the house, and the older, enigmatic Treat Williams drives up in his flashy convertible, his powerful physicality and cajoling seductiveness conjuring a more dangerously appealing sexuality. This central confrontation is a mesmerising set piece, but the allegorical subtleties (is this episode real, or merely a product of Dern's wishful imagining?) work better in a literary context. Here, as elsewhere, one senses that the images are being asked to carry rather more metaphorical weight than they are able to bear.
Cast and crew
Mary Kay Place