Geek Review: Freaks

The basic concept of the X-Men is that mutants are a minority group born with special powers.  Many regular people fear and hate them as a result.  In many cases, humanity does what it can to hunt down and either imprison or exterminate the mutants of the world.

That is sort of the background for the new movie Freaks.

Seven year old Chloe (newcomer Lexi Kolker) lives in a large, boarded-up house with her dad (Emile Hirsch).  He doesn’t want her to so much as peak outside.  He insists her mother is dead, and that bad people want to kill her for some reason.  Of course, keeping a seven year old inside a house forever isn’t going to work.  She wants to go out and experience the outside world.  He wants her to make sure she comes across as “normal”.

Normalcy is something that keeps cropping up again and again.  Chloe sees things, especially mystery figures in her closet, and the ice cream man who parks his truck outside her house (Bruce Dern) wants something from her as well.  She doesn’t really know much, only that she really wants some kind of mother.

Writer/directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky made a rather impressive sci-fi movie here.  Yeah, it may seem a lot like the X-Men universe, but the story only gradually parcels out information.  Most of this happens as Chloe starts to learn about the world she lives in.  This isn’t really an action movie kind of story, where the title characters lead raids or anything along those lines.  The characters are smart people reacting in different ways to a challenging world, and the movie is about Chloe’s deciding what she wants her world to be.

Fortunately, Kolker is a gifted kid actor.  A movie like this sinks or swims on the strength of its younthful protagonist.  Kolker proves herself capable here, and the rest of the cast backs her up very well.  Hirsch and Dern in particular bring in some solid performances as a somewhat justifiably paranoid father and an elder firebrand, respectively.  This isn’t a superhero movie; it’s a sci-fi coming of age character study.  9 out of 10 ice cream requests.

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