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Mini's First Time
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Marc Kandel

"Fun, but not the First of its kind."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: After seeing enough cat and mouse movies, con artist stories and “dark” comedies, we can usually jog ahead of the script and see the predestined end before any of the characters arrive. That’s fine so long as you have threatening cats and clever mice, cons that charm, and comedy that’s as dark as it purports to be yet still gets the laughs. There is fun to be had, but as it slips into recognizable formula, you won’t have the great time a more unique film would provide.

Mini’s life is made up of “firsts”- unique experiences that thrill and excite her amid a vacant life of privilege and neglect. The latest first? Teaming up with her stepfather (Alec Baldwin) to drive her mother to insanity so the two can continue their torrid affair basking in the wealth her mother’s gold-digging has amassed.

For the first half of “Mini’s First Time” we really do have something special. We are introduced to Mini (Nikki Reed), a girl brought up by a mother (Carrie Ann Moss) whose best parenting comes in the form of a pat on her daughter’s head for a morning Margarita well mixed, or the conscientious act of pointing out when her thighs look big in what dress. As this is the only parenting Mini has ever known aside from her mother’s revolving door of disinterested stepfathers and lovers, and as Mini’s family wealth assures us there is no need for her to work or struggle for anything, we come to learn that Mini’s moral compass has been demagnetized.

Mini defines herself not by good and bad, but by “Firsts”, which challenge her to constantly redefine her identity and life experience amid a static, lonely existence that provides neither. To paraphrase Hannibal Lecter, “This girl was not born a monster, she was made one through years of systematic abuse.” But make no mistake, Mini is a monster. The film is very clear on this point from the start, therefore the plot and its spiraling twists come as no surprise to anyone.

We have a war of escalation and a game of intrigue as Mini and Martin execute Diane’s removal. But as always, Mini cannot resist upping the stakes if it means achieving another first. I will leave it to the reader to consider what this means, suffice to say, our second half of the movie deals with the ramifications of the act, and the cat and mouse game between Mini, Martin, their prying neighbors (particularly a hilarious Jeff Goldblum obviously relishing playing Jeff Goldblum- and guess what, I could care less because the man is hilarious) and an unassuming yet dangerously intelligent detective (Luke Wilson) quietly unraveling the plot.

As I said before, we all know how this ends, right? But the film keeps attention through solid performances. Nikki Reed (is Mini the logical extension of the little beast from “Thirteen”?) could come off as overly obnoxious and smug playing this perceptive, unrepentant brat but director Nick Guthe succeeds marvelously at grounding Mini with the firm foundation of her abhorrent upbringing by a negligent, abusive parent resulting in a character that has made a choice to survive and explore a life undefined by traditional family structure or normal societal values. Mini is most fascinating not when she is at her wicked best, but those fleeting instances she takes to survey the damage she has caused and pauses to look in the mirror- so long as we can see a jot of humanity, even for a second, we are kept from caricature.

Mini is simply acting on a broken social contract, and if becoming a monster enables her to survive in this off-the-path world, then so be it. Her vicious confidence coupled with her cunning make for a very interesting protagonist; if only “Mini’s…” stayed a character-dedicated piece we might have a rich portrait of a unique creature, but alas, we must simply watch a plot morph into the usual manipulations, deceptions, paranoia, and backstabbing we’ve seen done magnificently and marginally, ranging from “Rope” to “Wild Things” with a smidgen of “Lolita” thrown in.

Alec Baldwin also fares well when left to explore an intelligent, yet reserved, repressed man finding passion in his questionable affair with Mini, but alas, soon he is pushed to trot out the obligatory David Mamet Fuckathon speeches that have become his signature since “Glengarry Glenross”- it's a shame, because the discomfort and conflicted emotions of parent/lover Mini and Martin’s relationship provokes is by far the more compelling focus than their machinations once their plot begins to unravel. As I said, it’s not a performance problem, it's the choices of where the script leads that disappoint.

Lastly, Carrie Ann Moss brings new life to the archetypal shot of the LA bitch at large, too complacent and frenzied to even bother wiping the smear of cocaine caked on her nose. Refusing to by typecast in any way, shape or form, Moss walks away with every scene she’s in, not by being “funny” (which she most certainly is) but simply by inhabiting Diane fully, and giving vent to a flawed woman’s reactions to her crumbling world. As Moss darts around like some odd bird, part predator, part victim, her scenes ripple with flavor and fun.

A nice ride while it lasts, "Mini's" is not as inventive or revolutionary as it thinks it is, or could be. Turning into one-upmanship between adversaries, we chose sides. There was a more disturbing world with no clear cut morality at the start; a first.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14352&reviewer=358
originally posted: 05/02/06 16:06:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/18/06 rebecca i absolutely loved it!! 5 stars
6/25/06 joel muldoon saw it at Solstice fest-- sleeper hit of the summer 5 stars
6/11/06 Ken Shubin Funny, great performances, different 5 stars
6/05/06 Todd Brian Hilarious, edgy, weird, not to be missed 5 stars
5/21/06 Matt Katzive Great Dark comedy 5 stars
5/04/06 donald smithee great fun 5 stars
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  14-Jul-2006 (R)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



Directed by
  Nick Guthe

Written by
  Nick Guthe

  Alec Baldwin
  Nikki Reed
  Luke Wilson
  Carrie-Anne Moss
  Jeff Goldblum
  Svetlana Metkina

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