Kid-Thing (2012)

Directed by David Zellner

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Annie (Sydney Aguirre) is a bit of an asshole in Kid-Thing, a black comedy about a future Ted Bundy.  She’s emotionless, isolated and becoming increasingly violent thanks to endless days with no leash and a father who doesn’t know any better than to let her run wild.  When he finds out she was kicked off the soccer team it’s not the punishment that surprises him but that she played soccer at all.

Her father is played by the director’s brother, Nathan, and his brother is played by David Zellner himself.  They are broad, frighteningly out of the loop characters who have no idea what’s going on underneath their noses.  They are the only real adults present in Annie’s world, and they are completely powerless, if only because they are clueless.

Annie will come across another adult, a man with a learning disability, to whom she asks questions that imply an awareness of her own sociopathy.  The scene only really highlights that she’s young enough to perhaps change her ways before it’s too late, but the rest of what we see in the film suggests there’s no one and nothing to keep her in line, meaning such introspection is like the death rattle of her own sensitivity.  Soon she will be closed off for good.

This hardening of her increasingly violent insanity is made clear through a storyline concerning the other adult in the story, an unseen woman trapped in a well.  Annie will stumble upon this woman but then ignore her.  Later she will return, curious, but continue to refuse to call for help.  Later on she can’t help herself and brings the woman dozens of hastily made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a walkie talkie.  She will use this communication device to further torment her.

Annie has no plan to help the woman until she decides she wants to run away.  By then, however, it’s too late, and we’re left to believe that the woman in the well has died.  The film will end with Annie looking down into the well and then jumping in, whether to die, disappear or otherwise remove herself from this world.

Annie is a lost cause because the adults around her fail her, I think.  That’s the message I got from this all.  She is raised in an environment with no structure and no strong adult supervision.  Her father and his brother are juvenile, drunk and aimless.  They do enough to get by, but they can barely support themselves and certainly can’t give Annie anything beyond food and a shelter.  Her moral compass spins wildly while she attempts to figure out right and wrong on her own.

Annie enjoys breaking things, and in one of the funniest/saddest scenes of the film she intimidates a stoic birthday girl in a wheelchair, staring her down before smashing her birthday cake with a metal bat.  Then she’ll steal one of her presents for good measure.

That scene plays out in long silences.  The girl never reacts and when the parents eventually come back outside to see the frosted carnage, they don’t react either.  Their placidity adds humor to the moment, suggesting a deep sense of shock that is immediately repressed in the back of their minds, but it also allows us to react for them.  Annie’s behavior is appalling but by this point expected.  When she stands menacingly in front of the poor girl she waits for what feels like a couple minutes.  We know precisely what is about to happen, and what follows is like a train accident evolving in slow motion.

Annie is a disaster, and no one can stop her.  The parents of the birthday girl stare at the wreckage Annie leaves behind with a look of almost boredom.  Annie’s destruction isn’t imbued with emotion and is instead the failing of something more institutional.  The lack of emotion to the movie as a whole seems to say a hell of a lot more about this character than it would were people to react as we do.

So I guess the characters’ lack of emotion helps us feel it for them, like Annie is offending us personally.  It certainly forces us to reach out and engage a little more with the text, and the treatment of Annie with such objectivity makes her poor behavior feel almost natural to the world.  As an individual she is hardly unique because her violence and sociopathy is ingrained in our culture on a deeper level.  She is a symptom of something larger rather than the cause.  At least that’s how I read it.

Up Next: A Star is Born (2018), Kimuko, the Treasure Hunter (2014), Six Days, Seven Nights (1998)

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