Emotionally powerful characters in real and rough circumstances.
“Hit it Pickle,” Erin Hale’s, Bastard, begins like those music videos where the kids act like adults. Dillard, nicknamed Pickle, is the rock star— an adorable eight-year-old kid who just wants a little attention from his junky father. The film begins with his pops, Cattail, picking Pickle up from his aunt’s trailer to bring him to school. He nearly kills Pickle twice on the failed journey. The first time Cattail nearly runs into another car.
“Bastard,” Pickle curses at the passing Subaru, to which his father responds, “A bastard is a kid without a dad. You know, you don’t know how lucky you have it. Havin’ what you have.” But it turns out the true bastard is Cattail, who fidgets in the Ford’s ashtray to find a cigarette butt, only to have his son find one for him first, then goes on to make a drug deal and forgets to bring Pickle to school.
A revealing moment is when Pickle goes through his school vocab list by himself. “Vibrant,” like the face of little Pickle. “Sanctuary,” what the little rock star needs. “Linger,” what his sleaze-ball father is doing. “Provoke,” what poor Pickle seems to do when he just wants some attention. “Abandon,” the theme of the film.
I hoped that Cattail could deliver. I almost felt sympathy for him, the true bastard the title refers to. But he failed Pickle and he failed me.
Hale has created not only emotionally powerful characters in real and rough circumstances, but she also captures the mystique of the Rocky Mountain West in a commendable way. Before Pickle departs on his solo journey to school, he holds up the topographical map his aunt made for him for show-and-tell, and lines it up with the mountains.
Choosing reality, which leaves me hopeful, Pickle leaves the map in the truck and walks into the fragment of light that welcomes him between two mountain peaks.
CLICK HERE to vote for your favorite film in the Griz vs Cat Student Filmmaker Challenge. Competition ends June 30.