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Lawn Dogs [DVD] 
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Starring Sam Rockwell and Mischa Barton this is in fact the last film that Rank actually made. A perfect, magical movie about a friendship between an emotionally isolated young girl in a ritzy, phoney neighbourhood, and a shunned, blue collar worker. In this touching tale of friendship against adversity the 10 year old Devon Stockard (Mischa Barton) and her parents (Kathleen Quinlan and Christopher McDonald) have just arrived in the exclusive gated community Camelot Gardens. Unlike her practical and ambitious parents Devon likes to be alone in her own imaginary worlds and whilst exploring outside the fence she stumbles upon the trailer of Trent (Sam Rockwell) a 22 year old lawn dog who mows the lawns for a living. Even though he is taunted by the rich college kids of the insular community an unlikely yet fulfilling friendship blossoms between the two outsiders. When the townsfolk misunderstand this innocent relationship and Trent is wrongly suspected of being a child molester, it is down to Devon to fight the suspicion and paranoia and find the strength to try to save him. 10-year old Devon Stockard (played by Barton) is new to Camelot Gardens, an up-market housing development. Unlike her socially ambitious parents, she likes to be alone in her imaginative world. She stumbles upon the trailer of Trent, a 22-year old lawn dog who mows lawns for a living, even though he is taunted by the rich college kids. Slowly, an unlikely and fulfilling friendship is born between the two outsiders, that is actually completely innocent, but given the child-adult nature of the friendship it is obvious that it would be unacceptable to the residents if they were found out. ...A pointedly whimsical film.... It shows off a poised young actress and a leading man with charisma to burn... -- Janet Maslin, New York Times "...Duigan reveals the truth and humour of growing up in a sheltered, unforgiving suburbia... -- Christine Spines, Premiere "...Beguilingly offbeat....Rockwell emerges as a compelling actor..." -- Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
No review of Lawn Dogs can adequately describe this extraordinary movie, nor can the title or any simple synopsis. In fact, there's no way of knowing what Lawn Dogs is really about until the very end when the last 90-minutes takes on a whole new significance.
The basic story follows the formation and fruition of a simple friendship. Devon (astounding newcomer Mischa Barton) is a 10-year-old girl born to glamour magazine identikit parents who live in the plush US suburban Camelot Gardens Estate. Trent (Sam Rockwell) is a 20-something lawnmower man whom everyone considers trash and who lives in a forest trailer. As secret friends they fill the holes in one another's lives. She has no other friends because she thinks "other kids smell like TV". It's all perfectly sweet and innocent. But naturally there's no way the uptight neighbourhood would perceive it that way. A creeping sense of doom begins to overtake events; but it is where this seemingly obvious tale twists at the end that makes the community's darker quirks a revelation.
On the DVD: Lawn Dogs on disc comes in a 16:9 transfer that retains the superb cinematography of endlessly stretching flat horizons. The three-channel sound is equally of benefit to a subtle bluesy score. Regrettably the only extra is a trailer. As a winner at numerous International Film Festivals, this picture really deserved something more. --Paul Tonks --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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I have been a fan of Sam Rockwell for a few years now and so was really happy to find him on Channel 4 in the wee hours, and I liked it so much I bought it from Amazon.
Lawn Dogs is, as with most of Rockwell's films, an overlooked and underrated piece of art. The story is unusual (a little holey at times but on the main it was quirky enough to pull it off) and a little unsettling, but all in all I highly recommend it to adults who miss magic in cinema and to those who really enjoy great good acting with bite and verve.
Micha Barton (now all growed up and in the OC on E4) is such a brilliant actress, holding her own against some seriously heavyweight performers. Charming and delicate, dangerous and eccentric, her charactor's reaching out to Sam's 'lawn dog' is both understandable and heavily burdened with the responsibility that this has to be done right or it'll be horrible. Well it isn't horrible, it's charming and a love story in the truest sense of the word.
See this movie. See All of Sam Rockwell's movies - he's a small man with a GIANT talent.
Written by Naomi Wallace, it tells the story of a friendship between a 10-year old outsider girl and a young lawn dog- who is also an outsider (though from a lower class). The film looks at the notions of class in American society by focusing on the gated community of Camelot Gardens, where Devon (the girl) lives and where Trent (the lawn dog) comes to work.
The film perhaps tackles too many issues, an agent orange/gulf syndrome disease is tacked on to themes of paranoia, paedophilia,access to firearms ,adultery,repressed homosexuality, crime ,market place viability, mob rule etc. This film may have suffered from a lack of promotion as it touches on too many wounds prevalent to Western society. Love the scene where the suburban families have a barbie to images of the Gulf War or the notion that the worst glasses in Devon's house are the best glasses in Trent's mobile home. Other wonderful scenes occur- from the nude dive to Dwight Yoakam (not unlike The Swimmer)to the Badlands-style panaroma of fields to the "I'll show you my scar" scene. Not forgetting the dreamlike shot of Devon's nightdress floating into the night- there are some very David Lynch moments here amid a political and mythological discourse.
The performances are great, the leads Sam Rockwell and Mischa Barton are particularly wonderful- I think Ms Barton could be the next Jodie Foster. This reminded me of several films- Sweetie, Walkabout, All That Heaven Allows, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, The Straight Story, Stand By Me, Whistle Down the Wind- though it is an extremely original work in its own right. Director John Duigan had already made the great The Year My Voice Broke and sequel Flirting (though he also made the dire Parole Officer...)- so he is more than at ease with this kind of story (art melodrama).
The denoument could be seen as either a shift towards magical realism or an imaginary way of ending Trent's story- I love the idea of the former. The final scene of colour shifting to monochrome of Devon in the red-ribboned tree speaking the voiceover is fantastic and ranks next to Jane Campion's Sweetie or Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective. Lawn Dogs is a modern classic that few people appear to have seen, personally I think it is more of an achievement than either American Beauty or Happiness and I hope it is watched by many in the future.
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