Missing Tone: Our Review of ‘Hunting Pignut’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - September 18, 2017
Missing Tone: Our Review of ‘Hunting Pignut’

In its lesser moments, Hunting Pignut shows the worst kind of self-awareness. The movie portrays people pointing out each other’s negative characteristics. And not because they’re ribbing on each other. Or sometimes it shows characters describing themselves. The script that director Martine Blue also wrote seems like a closet play, as if the visuals aren’t enough. The characters better just cut to the chase and tell each other what to do.

Our bullied protagonist Bernice Kilfoy (Taylor Hickson) yells at her mother (Amelia Manuel) about the other kids bullying her. After just showing the incident. And the Kilfoys (including Mary Walsh) call Bernice’s dad’s punk friend’s as, well, punks. Bernice is the kind of girl that the other girls pick last in gym class. She’s therefore hungry to belong. And she’s stubborn towards the people she thinks is her tribe.

The said tribe, by the way, are the punks who get the verbal lashing from the Kilfoys. And that’s because they showed up at Bernice’s dad’s funeral. The same people who killed him and stole his ashes. Bernice is sticking with these people to get her dad’s ashes back. Said ashes are allegedly in the possession of the titular Pignut (Joel Thomas Hynes). Fitting in with a guy named Pignut she changes her name to Story.

The movie is a tonal mess. It’s mostly a gritty urbane story but once in a while it softens its hard edges. Blue based the movie on her experiences on the street but it just doesn’t translate authentically here. The musical choices don’t help neither. It switches from jangly guitars to something that would have been in the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack.

Here, though, Hickson’s trying something different from her supporting work playing preppy blondes in movies like Everything, Everything. She can’t shake that image though, but she uses that as an advantage. She’s more wily than her other gutter punk friends. She’s able to get some of what she wants from the other characters. That’s something her new peers, who prefer the hard sell, fail to do.

But there’s so much Hickson can do with Bernice’s changing motivation, or rather, the way she delays towards her objectives. As Story, she’s not just trying to recover her father’s remains. She’s also trying to get to know the people who spent time with her dad during his last days. The character demands a malleability that goes beyond the suspension of disbelief. She never does the rational thing nor justifies that irrationality.

The cinematography is also sedate, adding to the softening of a story that could have had more impact. But it does make for a good adventure. Blue sends hurdles Story’s way, but there isn’t a hint of sadism in putting her in danger. She always fights hard and gets off before it’s too late. And Blue is smart enough not to make this seem like a public service announcement.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.