12 and Holding (R)

Drama 94 June 2, 2006
By Melissa Levine
For Michael Cuesta (L.I.E.) as for Todd Solondz, childhood is a vicious affair. His prim suburban lots hide desperate characters, children flailing in the face of violence and cruelty and parents who make things worse. In this overwrought film, he pits four preteen protagonists -- a pair of dueling twin boys, a frank and laser-sharp girl with a feckless mother, and a fat boy in a family that refuses to let him cut back -- in a struggle for survival. Some of them make it (or seem to), and some of them don't. The problem is not that Cuesta won't allow us to relax; artfully, he keeps us edgy and scared, pinned in the same menacing landscape his characters inhabit. It's that 12 and Holding's litany of catastrophe accrues to a point where it loses meaning. His themes of adolescent solitude and abandonment are rich and well worth dramatizing, and he gets them up and running from the start. Unfortunately, with a surfeit of danger and horror, he runs them into the ground.
Michael Cuesta Conor Donovan, Zoe Weizenbaum, Jesse Camacho, Linus Roache, Annabella Sciorra, Jeremy Renner, Jayne Atkinson, Marcia DeBonis, Tom McGowan, Bruce Altman Anthony S. Sipriano Brian Bell, Michael Cuesta, Jenny Schweitzer, Leslie Urdang IFC Films

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