Little Birds (film)

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Little Birds
Little Birds Theatrical Poster 2011.jpg
Official 2011 theatrical poster
Directed byElgin James
Produced byJamie Patricof
Alan Polsky
Gabe Polsky
Written byElgin James
StarringJuno Temple
Kay Panabaker
Kate Bosworth
Leslie Mann
Kyle Gallner, Carlos Pena Jr.
Editing bySuzanne Spangler
Distributed byMillennium Entertainment
Release date(s)
  • January 20, 2011 (2011-01-20) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • August 29, 2012 (2012-08-29) (United States)
Running time94 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
 
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Little Birds
Little Birds Theatrical Poster 2011.jpg
Official 2011 theatrical poster
Directed byElgin James
Produced byJamie Patricof
Alan Polsky
Gabe Polsky
Written byElgin James
StarringJuno Temple
Kay Panabaker
Kate Bosworth
Leslie Mann
Kyle Gallner, Carlos Pena Jr.
Editing bySuzanne Spangler
Distributed byMillennium Entertainment
Release date(s)
  • January 20, 2011 (2011-01-20) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • August 29, 2012 (2012-08-29) (United States)
Running time94 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Little Birds is a 2012 American film written and directed by Elgin James, and starring Juno Temple and Kay Panabaker.[1] The film follows two girls that leave home to follow two skateboarders to Los Angeles and is loosely based on the life of director Elgin James.[2] The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, with Millennium Entertainment acquiring the North American rights to the film.[3]

Synopsis[edit]

Lily (Juno Temple) and Alison (Kay Panabaker) are best friends living in a poverty-stricken California town near the Salton Sea. The two are complete opposites: Lily, who is suicidal, lives with her single mother, Margaret (Leslie Mann) trying to raise Lily on her own, although Lily thinks she is being neglectful. Alison grew up with her alcoholic dad but somehow finds solace under her uncle Hogan's (Neal McDonough) automotives and horse. She is repulsive towards her actions unlike Lily who is somewhat impulsive and rebellious in nature. It is clear that Lily wants to flee from her home. Together, the two girls venture into their secluded town and join skateboarding boys from Los Angeles: Louis (Carlos Pena, Jr.), David (Chris Coy) and Jesse (Kyle Gallner) with whom Lily soon becomes smitten. Before the boys leave, Jesse kisses Lily and writes his number into her arm which Alison gets upset about.

Lily asks Alison to help her get them to Jesse back in Los Angeles driving Hogan's truck. At first, Alison is quite hesitant but changes her mind and drives with Lily to Los Angeles. When they stop at a convenience store, Lily saves Alison as she gets caught trying to return the goods Lily stole for them. The two soon find the three boys and Alison drives them to their place. While walking in the streets, Lily runs into a hustling guy and she demands for his apology. When the guy tries to reason out, David hits his head with a skateboard and the five run away leaving Alison in shock. The group settles at the boys' abandoned rundown apartment where other homeless teenagers resides. Since the two girls don't really know much about the boys, Alison tries to warn Lily but Lily just wants to enjoy the moment. Alison shares an intimate moment with Louis but rebuffs him when he starts groping her.

In the morning, Lily and Jesse break into an empty house where Jesse tells her how it used to be his home until his family moved to Arizona only for him to return to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Alison wanders around the city and calls her uncle Hogan and says sorry to him but Hogan tells her to go home and how people are worried about her and Lily. Alison then swears to him she will return home with Lily. Back at the house, Jesse and Lily start kissing when Jesse notices Lily's cuts on her inner thighs. He gets intrigued by her suicidal demeanor and also reveals his scar from his chest to make Lily better. When the two get home, David discovers a dating website and convinces a hesitant Jesse to make Lily as a bait into hoaxing and stealing from older men, to which Lily complies. Lily then meets up with the old man and lures him to their place. When they get there, the boys, along with a hesitant Alison show up and David threatens the man with a gun. The boys then steal the man's money and cellphone before setting him free.

Alison makes Lily promise that they need to go home to which Lily agrees. In the evening, David gets into an argument with Alison and throws her out of the group. Alison leaves, but is rebuffed by Lily when Alison tells her to come with her, saying she is going to be moving in with Jesse. When Lily starts chastising Alison, Alison finally strikes back and their friendship is compromised. Lily then meets up with a middle-aged guy, John (JR Bourne) and lures him back to the boys. When they get there, John starts to freak out, revealing his psychopathic behavior. The boys appear and startle John with David threatening him with a gun, but John learns of David's cowardice and knocks him out. He then proceeds to beat Jesse who evades the scene, leaving a terrified Lily. John forces a crying Lily into the mattress and prepares to rape her. A gunshot is heard and John is shot at the back, revealing it to be Alison who came back to save Lily. The girls then drive away and Alison pulls over near the beach. They both step out and enjoy their last moments in Los Angeles before finally heading back home.

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

  1. "Tinted Soft Green" – Elgin James & The Suicide Gang
  2. "Tender Branch" – Tift Merritt
  3. "Too Far" – Linee
  4. "This Town" – Linee
  5. "I Will Die Young" – Elgin James & The Suicide Gang
  6. "Another Man Don' Gone" – Odetta & Larry
  7. "September Gurls" – Big Star
  8. "Anenome" – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  9. "Lily & Jesse's Theme" – Chad Gilbert
  10. "Boy's Theme" – Elgin James & The Suicide Gang
  11. "Alison's Theme (feat. Leslie Stevens)" – Elgin James & The Suicide Gang
  12. "Little Birds" – Tift Merritt

Development[edit]

James, who founded Friends Stand United, began working on Little Birds around 2009, loosely basing the film on his own life experiences.[4] James was originally working on an autobiographical project about he and his best friend who left their small towns and joined a gang in Boston.[5] That film had Justin Timberlake attached to portray James and Nick Cassavetes attached to direct. But James was worried the film would ultimately "glamorize the violent lifestyle" he'd recently left behind, so he wrote Little Birds instead, substituting two fifteen year old girls for he and his best friend.[5] He chose to focus the film around the characters of "Lily" and "Alison" after seeing a teenage girl riding on the back of a bike in the Salton Sea, with James saying "You could just tell that she was on fire and she was never going to get out of there", referencing how he felt about being trapped in his own small town as a kid.[6]

Juno Temple was signed onto the film and James offered her the choice of playing either Lily or Alison. She chose to portray Lily, citing that she connected with the character more and "wanted to set her free".[5] Temple and James worked on the film together for two years, becoming close. They continue to collaborate [7] and in interviews refer to each other as "best friends" [8] and "family." [9] James has said he considers Little Birds to be a love song to the strong women in his life, including Temple.[7]

After auditioning hundreds of actresses, Kay Panabaker came on to the film just one week before filming.[10] She and Temple became close by having sleepovers in each other's hotel rooms during the shoot and "watching bad movies and eating junk food together." [10]

The film was produced through the Sundance Institute Labs, with producer Jamie Patricof expressing support for Little Birds.[11]

James finished the film shortly before its screening in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival in an effort to complete Little Birds before having to attend a trial for his actions while part of Friends Stand United.[12]

Reception[edit]

While considered a "Darling"[13] and a hit [14] when it originally premiered at Sundance film festival in 2011, when Little Birds was released in 2012 it had much more divisive reviews. Some critics criticized it for being nihilistic and without hope. The New York Post called it "An unpleasant little film about a sulking, self-mutilating 15-year-old girl."[15] And Film School Rejects called it "A prime example of miserabilist indie cinema and, despite it’s strong craft, consistently a tough sit.[16]

It also garnered positive reviews. Entertainment Weekly called Little Birds "A touching and distinctive achievement."[17] The Hollywood Reporter called it "An assured debut...vividly captures the excitement of rule-breaking adolescent adventure." [18] The New Yorker described it as being full of "Shimmering fatalism."[5]

Some critics addressed both the film's dark themes and its strengths. MSN's The Hit List said "There’s such bleakness in this film, yet it’s one of the most visually beautiful films I’ve seen." [7] And Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times said of the characters Lily and Alison "Theirs is a case of innocence not simply lost but crushed like a cigarette under the heel of a shoe." Also saying while occasionally "frustrating" the film also has "Bursts of brilliance and moments of aching vulnerability."[19]

About the film, Elgin James told The New York Daily News “My goal is to take the wreckage of my life and turn it into something beautiful. Hopefully, ‘Little Birds’ accomplishes that.”[20]

Juno Temple has said "I can’t predict what people will feel when they see it, I just want them to feel something."[7]

On the same note, Kay Panabaker says "We’re not trying to be award-winning. We’re not trying to get people to love it. We just want people to see the film and feel something."[10]

Little Birds won a National Board Of Review award for ten best independent films of 2012.[21]

Elgin James won an award from Variety Magazine and was named "Ten Directors to watch."[22]

Little Birds was named one of the 25 Best Summer Movies by Complex (magazine)[23]

Paste Magazine named it one of the Fifty Best Films of 2012.[24]

It was released in theaters on August 31, 2012,[25] and on home video/DVD on January 1, 2013.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Call-In Commentary: Watch the "Little Birds" trailer with writer-director Elgin James". IFC. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "LIMITED RELEASEA former gang leader’s new life in movies.". New Yorker. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Millennium Entertainment Picks Up 'Little Birds' for North America". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Elgin James: Gave up gang life for 'Birds'". Variety. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Friend, Tad. "A former gang leader comes to hollywood". 
  6. ^ "Homeless to Hollywood: First-Time Director Elgin James Talks ‘Little Birds'". Daily Beast. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d Miller, Danny. "Elgin James, unlikely director of "little birds"". 
  8. ^ James, Elgin. "little birds filmmaker reflects on his personal transformation". 
  9. ^ radish, christina. "Juno Temple talks Little Birds, sexuality vs. VIolence in film, and playing a fairy in Maleficent". 
  10. ^ a b c Aquino, Tara. "Interview: Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker and Elgin James Talk Their Coming-of-Age Drama "Little Birds"". 
  11. ^ Fleming, Mike. "Gang Past Rears Up For Sundance ‘Little Birds’ Director Elgin James, Who’ll Spend Year In Jail". Deadline. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  12. ^ OSTERHOUT, JACOB E. "Elgin James is giving his violent life a different story". NY Daily News. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Maeby, Liana. "Style Crush: Juno Templet". 
  14. ^ Han, Angie. "'Little Birds Trailer' - Juno Temple wilts in former gang leaders sundance hit". 
  15. ^ Smith, Kyle. "'Little Birds". 
  16. ^ Levin, Robert. "Review: Little Birds". 
  17. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Movie Review: Little Birds". 
  18. ^ Defore, John. "Little Birds: Sundance Review". 
  19. ^ Sharkey, Betsy. "Review: Little Birds". 
  20. ^ Osterhaut, Jacob. "'Little Birds' director Elgin James looks forward to making films, not back on his violent past". 
  21. ^ team, deadline. "National board of review best film; 'Zero Dark Thirty'url=http://www.deadline.com/2012/12/national-board-of-review-2012-winners-zero-dark-thirty/". 
  22. ^ staff, Variety. "Variety announces directors to watchlurl=http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118028880/?refcatid=4076". 
  23. ^ Barone, Matt. "The 25 best summer movies of 2012". 
  24. ^ Dunaway, Michael. "The 50 best movies of 2012". 
  25. ^ "Little Birds release dates". 
  26. ^ "Little Birds DVD release date". 

External links[edit]