It’s been way too long since I’ve sat, in a state of daze, with the credits rolling, saying, “Wow, what a fucking good movie.” Rebecca Thomas’s debut feature film, Electrick Children, though, left me with that feeling of bliss. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience this movie imparts. It’s a potent mixture: part coming-of-age drama, part road trip movie, part magical realism (assuming you don’t buy the immaculate conception story) . . . a beautiful journey of self-discovery altogether. Gush gush gush gush.
Rachel lives with her family on a Mormon colony in Utah. She’s just “celebrated” her fifteenth birthday, and, soon after, discovers a blue cassette tape. She sneaks off in the night to listen to it and hears a cover of Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone.” Rachel finds herself utterly enraptured by the song. She loves it. She, in fact, believes she’s been touched by the glory of God hearing it.
The next thing she knows, she’s pregnant. And Rachel thinks the song caused her pregnancy. An immaculate conception. A miracle.
Her family isn’t as optimistic. So they blame her brother, Mr. Will (Liam Aiken), for impregnating her. Her “father” (Billy Zane) arranges a marriage, but before it can happen she flees to Las Vegas in search of the man singing “Hanging on the Telephone.”
In Vegas she falls in with a group of hard-living, punk-rocking skateboarders and develops a romance with one of them: Clyde (Rory Culkin). Mr. Will, ostracized from the Mormon colony, comes looking for her, but ends up falling in with the same crowd.
Rachel finds the man on the tape, but he is not what she was expecting at all. He represents something ultimately as important, though, as Rachel learns lots about herself finding him: she learns there is much more to her own identity than she realized.
The question, who is the father of her child, by the way, is never answered, leaving the end of the movie open to interpretation.
What a fascinating spectacle. Watching the most sheltered of sheltered breaking out of their bubble, running with a crowd that drinks, does drugs, swears, listens to loud, abrasive music. The whole situation is funny, terrifying, and sad all at the same time– with an uncanny amount of suspense to be felt watching it all go down.
Julia Garner offers a more-than-credible innocence, sense of determination, and overall believability. Seemingly, the movie wouldn’t have worked without her. Rory Culkin, for that matter, is the perfect counterpart. He’s scary, at times, in his reckless oblivion, but ultimately decent.
Elecktrick Children tells a great story, and it unfolds with a seamless hypnosis on eye-popping backdrops: the Utah desert, the open road, neon-lit streets, shitty apartments, dingy all-ages rock clubs. The camera flows like water and stops to dwell on some truly great images: Rachel on the streets of Vegas in heart-shaped sunglasses; Mr. Will daringly about to descend into a skate park, then having to get his arm set over a snare drum; Clyde pensively smoking on the side of the highway. The soundtrack is perfect, too, featuring music from a relatively unknown Omaha, Nebraska band called Conduits.
Electirck Children, overall, instills hope that the Indies really, really have something going this decade.