THE POKER HOUSE
MOVIE: * (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Jennifer Lawrence as AGNES
Bokeem Woodbine as DUVAL
Sophia Bairley as BEE
Chloe Grace Moretz as CAMMIE
David Alan Grier as STYMIE
Selma Blair as SARAH
Directed by: Lori Petty
Studio: Phase 4 Films
BY KEVIN CARR
After forcing myself to sit though the morose and woefully dark film “The Poker House,” I was slapped in the face with a title card announcing that this was the true story of actor and the film’s director Lori Petty’s life. And while that was supposed to tug at the heart strings and make me feel sympathy for her, it just made me angry.
“The Poker House” is a bleak film about a teenage girl named Agnes (Jennifer Lawrence), whose mother (Selma Blair) is a strung-out prostitute. She is raised in a household where she’s infatuated with her mom’s pimp (Bokeem Woodbine) while gamblers, thieves and johns come through a revolving door. Agnes is trying to survive and wants to find a better life for her younger sisters. It takes some life-changing events for her to take action.
My heart goes out to Lori Petty if her life was as awful as that of Agnes in this film. However, there’s something exploitative about plastering this horrid story on the screen. I understand the film trying to make the point that the kids were trapped, but I found little sympathy for Agnes because there are always places to get help, which she never took.
The movie seemed to point a finger at its own audience and scold it for its ignorance of this problem and apparent unwillingness to help. I know this sort thing does happen even in modern-day America. However, there’s something to be said for personal responsibility, and Agnes (and possibly Petty in her true-life story) should have reached out to the school, the police, the church or the community.
I was depressed and angered after seeing this film because it made me sit through an hour and a half of neglect, abuse, rape and drug trafficking and gave me a crappy resolution with kids singing to a car stereo.
The DVD comes with a photo gallery, the trailer and an audio commentary by Lori Petty.