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Film Review: James Franco's Child of God


Year: 2014
Director: James Franco
Cast: Scott Haze, Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco
Country of Origin: U.S.
Rating: R
Time: 104 mins

To Hollywood, James Franco is known to be one of the hardest working man in the industry and to the rest of gen-y kids, he is an actor and the king of selfies. Not only is he an actor but a director,  producer, author (Palo Alto), walking performance-art piece, and not to mention a teacher as written in his Wikipedia page. What the rest of America doesn't really know is that Franco has been a prolific and avid filmmaker for the past 9 years with about 24 film credits to his name as a Director! 

And he's at it again folks with Child of God, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name that is about the life of a violent young outcast Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) living in the 1960s Tennessee. Scott Haze is a relative unknown actor at this point with only previously seen in Franco's adaptation of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and is also starring in an upcoming Franco projects like The Sound and the Fury and a Charles Bukowski biopic. It is safe to say that Franco has found his muse (freaking diamond in the rough!) and it's no question why given Haze's ability to absolutely lose himself in a character as seen in this film. 

Ballard is described by the Sheriff Fate (Tim Blake Nelson) as a "child of God" even though clearly, he is a menace to society and an outcast. The film is not an easy film to watch nor is Ballard a character worth rooting for. But Haze's commitment in portraying the grotesque and barbaric Ballard is remarkable and mesmerizing as he mentally, physically, and emotionally descends into maddening crime and degradation. He speaks in driveling, incoherent gibberish and fiendishly stalks with his maniacal eyes will surely send you in a frenzy of paranoia because most likely, Ballard will jolt you with simply his sinister presence. In one of the beginning scenes, we see a shot of Ballard's excrements streaming out of his butt and wiped by a long stick in full view. This scene only sets the bar of the derangement that ensues the rest of the film that entails murder, masturbation and oh yeah, necrophilia! Wait, did I mention necrophilia?! 

I haven't seen any of Franco's previous works but if I were to just judge his directing and story constructing skills from this film alone, I would say he has potential but it's not clearly displayed in this film. The storyline is rushed and it's shoddy form that utilizes in a superfluous amount of fade-ins and fade-outs creates such unrelentingly lethargic tone that it's near impossible not to get restless with the story. The camera work is intended to be ugly but it's dreadful and junky mold only creates unnecessary uneasiness on top of the repelling content on screen. While I may have not liked the form for personal reasons, it is Haze's rugged and praise-worthy performance that holds Child of God's mushy pieces together. It's a performance not to be missed even if you will probably feel a bit haggard and queasy at the end of the film.

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