Little Chenier

  • 2006
  • Movie
  • R
  • Crime, Drama

Director/co-writer Bethany Ashton Wolf's steamy Southern-Gothic melodrama doesn't miss a cliche: Imagine chunks of Of Mice and Men bobbing around in a spicy Cajun gumbo. But it's steeped in authentic local atmosphere -- shot on location in the Chenier Plain, a coastal marsh region, the center of Louisiana's Cajun community before it was devastated by 2005's...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Director/co-writer Bethany Ashton Wolf's steamy Southern-Gothic melodrama doesn't miss a cliche: Imagine chunks of Of Mice and Men bobbing around in a spicy Cajun gumbo. But it's steeped in authentic local atmosphere -- shot on location in the Chenier Plain, a coastal marsh region, the center of Louisiana's Cajun community before it was devastated by 2005's Hurricane Rita, the film evokes the rhythms of a unique regional culture in an increasingly homogenized world..

Beaux Dupuis (Johnathon Schaech) and his younger brother, the mentally-challenged Pemon (Frederick Koehler) were abandoned by their mother almost 18 years ago, and raised by their brutal, alcoholic father, Tuck (Marshall Bell). Tuck regularly vanishes for weeks at a time, leaving Beaux to runs the family bait shop out of their home on the bayou and look after Pemon, whom Tuck despises. Most of their neighbors regard Pemon as simple but harmless, and respect Beaux for his unwavering loyalty to his brother. But Deputy Carl Lebauve (Jeremy Davidson), the lazy, spiteful son of local Sheriff Kline Lebauve (Chris Mulkey) has always hated Pemon. And he recently eloped Beaux's longtime sweetheart, Marie-Louise (Tamara Braun), knowing full well that she still loves Beaux – the reason for their sudden, secretive marriage is a mystery to the entire community, including Carl's parents. When a calf is found sadistically beaten to death, he uses his authority to sow suspicion about Pemon. As long as his father, who's known the Dupuis family all his life, is around, Carl can't do much more than glower and insinuate. But after he's killed thwarting a filling-station robbery, Carl institutes an escalating war of intimidation and harassment that can only end badly.

Ashton Wolf and co-writer Jace Jackson have a heavy hand with the sweat, steam, symbolism and 'gator wrestling, but it's Koehler's squeaky-voiced performance as man-child Pemon that threatens to push the film over the line that divides old-fashioned melodrama from flat-out parody. Schaech's deeply internalized portrayal of Beaux helps provide some balance, and the scenes of every day life on the bayou-- a crawfish boil and barbecue, a Cajun funeral, a fireworks display on a nearby lake – possess a beguiling beauty that's hard to resist. (In English and subtitled Cajun French)

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Director/co-writer Bethany Ashton Wolf's steamy Southern-Gothic melodrama doesn't miss a cliche: Imagine chunks of Of Mice and Men bobbing around in a spicy Cajun gumbo. But it's steeped in authentic local atmosphere -- shot on location in the Chenier Plai… (more)

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