review for Bastard out of Carolina on AllMovie

Bastard out of Carolina (1996)
by Andrea LeVasseur review

Based on the novel by Dorothy Allison, Bastard out of Carolina marks the directorial debut of acclaimed actress Anjelica Huston. Originally a made-for-TV movie, this disturbing family drama premiered on the Showtime cable network after TNT declined to broadcast it due to the dark subject. The topic of child abuse is inherently unsettling, yet Huston refused to sensationalize the depictions of violence. The painfully realistic abuse does become almost unbearable to watch, but it thankfully surpasses becoming exploitation by treating the characters with compassion. Given their situations in the poverty-stricken Deep South, the actors also do a reasonable job of not resorting to "white trash" stereotypes. Especially memorable is the screen debut of promising star Jena Malone, who portrays Bone with an amazing range for a child actor. Though the grim realities and graphic violence are difficult to endure, Bastard out of Carolina is a haunting portrait of a touchy subject that is often given the schmaltzy after-school-special treatment.