Short Term 12

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever
Directed by: Destin Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”)
Written by: Destin Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”)

If all films were as affecting and emotionally authentic as director/writer Destin Cretton’s dramatic indie masterpiece “Short Term 12,” the moviemaking industry would be a better place. Cretton, in only his second feature film of his career (his first was last year’s scarcely seen “I Am Not a Hipster”), has crafted what is easily one of the best films of 2013. Deeply moving and featuring extraordinary performances by both first-time and established actors, “Short Term 12” is one of those honest and intimate scripts that come out of nowhere to say something memorable and meaningful.

Based on Cretton’s 2008 short film of the same name, “Short Term 12” follows the internal workings of a temporary group home for at-risk youth and the teenagers and staff that form the organization. Supervising the day staff is Grace (Brie Larson), a 20-something young woman who is the heartbeat of the program and knows how to interact with even the most troubled kids. Her extremely kindhearted live-in boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) also works at the facility. He, too, understands how sensitive their jobs are, since he was raised by loving foster parents.

When a new client, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), joins the group, Grace is forced to revisit some of the incidents in her dark past that she has bottled up for years. But with all her attention paid to the kids who need her guidance (Marcus has anger issues and is turning 18, which means he has to leave the program; Sammy is a sweetheart who has emotional meltdowns), there is little time for Grace to confront her own situation head on.

With Grace at the center of his narrative, Cretton has created a genuine protagonist, with deep-seated flaws and an unmatchable devotion for her responsibilities with the kids. Larson is wonderful and the fully-realized character Cretton has written for her is one that few actresses come across in their entire career. Cretton doesn’t stop there, however. Along with his leads, including the perfectly cast Dever, he also handles each of the young personalities as if they were starring in their own movie. Actors like Alex Calloway (Sammy) and Keith Stanfield (Marcus) might have limited screen time (and in Calloway’s case, few words to say), but they’re presence is extremely compelling. In one particular scene, Marcus shares with Mason lyrics to a hip-hop song he has written. In the three minutes it takes him to perform it, Cretton hooks you if he hasn’t already.

Brimming with tenderness, humor, sadness and hope, moviegoers who enjoy rich, character-driven stories need to seek out “Short Term 12” as soon as possible. Far from the melodramatic fare this could’ve turned out to be, Cretton proves to be an impressive storyteller early on. Here’s to hoping the independent film industry has him for a good amount of time before larger studios start throwing money at him. With his talent, it’s bound to happen sooner than later.

Kevin Hernández – The Sitter

December 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Kevin Hernández walked into his very first audition for a TV commercial a few years ago brimming with confidence. Acting was something he knew he wanted to do and he landed the role. It’s the same confidence Hernández builds on as his young career continues to blossom.

“Everything was new to me back then,” Hernández, 14, told me during an interview for his new movie “The Sitter” starring Jonah Hill (“Superbad”). “I got very excited. I wanted to see if I could win another one.”

In “The Sitter,” Hernández plays Rodrigo, a foreign exchange student who is one of three young kids college student Noah Griffith (Hill) is coaxed into babysitting. The babysitting gig turns into an adventure through Manhattan when Noah is invited to a party and takes the kids along for the ride.

During our interview, Hernández, who is originally from El Salvador, talked about working with Hill and about another movie he’s already completed starring Mel Gibson.

How did you get involved in acting?

I started when I was about seven or eight years old. I wasn’t shy. I did plays. I read with enthusiasm. I really liked acting. It was a lot of fun. My parents love watching movies. I used to watch a lot with them. Sometimes I would try to act them out. I would be “Superman” or someone like that. I learned a lot from watching movies.

Landing your very first audition must’ve been pretty exciting. You must’ve thought, “I’m going to land everything I audition for!”

Well, there are moments when you get [roles] and other times when you don’t and think you’re never going to get anything else. But eventually you learn and keep working and having a really good time.

How did your role in “The Sitter” come to you?

I read the script and went to an audition. There were like 1,000 kids going out for that part. I was like, “Oh, wow, this is really a big opportunity!” I did about three auditions before they narrowed it down and finally said, “Yeah, we like you!” I was amazed I got it.

How would you describe your character Rodrigo?

He’s mean. He’s a very angry boy. He’s always making fun of people. He talks really loud and curses. It was really fun to play him.

What was it like to work with Jonah Hill?

You see people in movies and you think, “Wow, if I was ever to meet him, what would I say?” So to actually work with him was great. When you talk with him he’s a really nice guy and he makes you laugh. He’s a really talented guy. I learned a lot from him.

What did Jonah teach you about comedy?

Comedy is really challenging because one little beat can change a whole joke. You have to know when to stop and when to say something and whether to use a low or high-pitched voice. He taught me a lot about improvising. He’s really good at that.

What Jonah Hill movies do you like?

I love “Superbad.” I think that was a really unique film. Oh, and “Get Him to the Greek.” That was a really funny film. I thought whenever I would meet Jonah, I was just going to start laughing because I’d remember him in that film.

As your career continues, what kind of roles do you hope to get a chance to do?

I’ve done a comedy, so now I’d really want to try drama. I love using emotions and bringing that to life. But mostly, I want to get more experience acting.

Speaking of getting more experience, you’ve also shot an action movie with Mel Gibson called “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” which will hopefully hit theaters next year.

Yeah, we shot the film in Mexico. It was a really big role for me. Working with Mel was great. I learned from one of the best. He truly showed me how to act. He was a really fun guy. It was awesome watching him work. He knows so much. He taught me so many things.

You’re 14 years old. Do you still need a babysitter?

No. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever had a babysitter.

If you needed one, what actor or actress would you pick?

Um, probably someone funny like [actor] Mike Meyers.

You’re supposed to say someone like Scarlett Johansson.

Oh, no. I probably wouldn’t be doing my homework if she was my babysitter.