I really never thought I'd hear a sentence like this in 2012: “I can see making a coming-of-age story about a boy. But when it's a girl… it's just creepy.” And yet, that's what a middle-aged man had to say about our film, HICK, told from the POV of our 13-year-old protagonist, Luli McMullen, played by Chloe Grace Moretz. This kind of attitude begs the question, “Well, then are we just not supposed to write about girls?” Should we just keep quiet?
I know the film is shocking. Before we screened at the premiere in NYC, Derick Martini, our director, told the audience, “Be warned. It's not Mary Poppins.” It's not shocking simply for the sake of being shocking. It's shocking because we are holding a mirror up to nature.
Luli's actual life is pathetic. Yet on TV, she sees the big, glitzy, glamorous world out there, and she wants to be that, be those things, look like that, sound like that and believes, understandably, that then she will be happy. And, of course, ultimately she learns that those things are an illusion.
Essentially, this is a cautionary tale. We're not putting Luli in these situations for fun. We're putting her in these situations to show what NOT to do. (SPOILER) Everyone is talking about how Blake Lively, as Glenda, gives Luli meth. And Blake's character does give Luli drugs — until she cares about her. Once she sees that Luli is, actually, just a sweet little egg with a moral conscience… she refuses to give her anymore.
Dealing with ugly subjects is not promoting them. So, yes, the backlash is a bit baffling, considering the screenplay and the novel were written by a woman, considering the film is the same subject matter as the novel, and considering that a majority of women who saw the film actually felt like it spoke to them in a unique way. After every screening, someone tells me of a strange gray-area situation they got themselves into when they were too young to know what was going on.
But then it hit me: Most of this backlash was coming from guys who don't want to be put into the head of a thirteen-year-old girl. Luli is curious, she's smart, she's kind of manipulative, she's vulnerable and, guess what… she is wondering about sex. Every guy in the universe is starting to treat her differently for some reason and she's wondering why that's happening. Powerless in her situation thus far, she sees she finally has some power here.
I know this is a film that people either hate to love, or love to hate. You may not want to hear things that make you uncomfortable. But if you just allow girls to be more than one thing, not just virgins, not just whores, not just princesses, not just basket-cases, not just hot chicks, if you just allow us to be, say, human… you might just learn something.
Andrea Portes is the screenwriter of Hick which is based on her novel. The film is in theatres and on VOD today.