Even before its release, this oft-delayed film stirred up the kind of controversy not seen since 1978's Pretty Baby. That's because Hounddog's plot revolves around the rape of 14-year-old Dakota Fanning. Though not graphic, the scene is exceedingly painful to watch.
Fanning stars as Lewellen, a precocious girl growing up in rural poverty in 1950s Alabama. Her muse is Elvis and she imitates his hip-swaying delivery to the amusement of grown-ups.
Her father (David Morse) is a cruel, violent man, living with his ex-wife's meek sister (Robin Wright Penn) until a direct lightning strike leaves him simple and mild.
Then, it's announced that Elvis will be giving a concert in the town, which is remarkable since there seems to be about a dozen people in the community.
Desperate to get a ticket, Lewellen is lured by a man to a remote shack where she is raped.
She sinks into a deep catatonic despondency until she is implausibly restored by Charles (Afemo Omilami), a wise groom.
This one-horse town attracts some remarkable talent. Earlier in the film, Big Mama Thornton belts out "Hounddog" in Charles' barn.
A slow procession of degradation and suffering, Hounddog is like a tall glass of bitter iced tea.
- David Hiltbrand