A scene from "Electrick Children." (Handout )
Though unevenly told and at times too fanciful for its own good, "Electrick Children" marks an intriguing feature debut for its risk-taking writer-director, Rebecca Thomas.
Thomas apparently drew on her own upbringing to craft this 1996-set tale of 15-year-old Rachel (Julia Garner, excellent), a fundamentalist Utah Mormon who believes she's become pregnant by secretly listening to an old cover recording of Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone" sung by a stirring male voice.
To avoid a face-saving marriage arranged by her religious leader father (a nicely calibrated Billy Zane) and more malleable mother (Cynthia Watros), Rachel steals the family truck and flees her Mormon colony. With ostracized adopted brother "Mr. Will" (Liam Aiken) in tow (he's accused of being the baby daddy), Rachel heads for Las Vegas to find the singer she thinks caused her immaculate conception.
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The unusual first act gives way to something less special once Rachel and Mr. Will hit Sin City and fall in with a bunch of skaters and musicians, most notably Clyde (Rory Culkin), a well-off kid slumming it in the shadows. While Thomas thankfully doesn't overplay the Mormons-out-of-water stuff, she seems to skim a bit of surface amid the youthful grit.
However, Rachel's eventual discovery of the mystery singer (Bill Sage) nets unexpected rewards — for both Rachel and the viewer — and effectively shores up the film's dangling metaphors and dreamy impressions.
"Electrick Children." MPAA Rating: R for language including brief sexual references. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.
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