12 And Holding (DVD)

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12 And Holding (DVD)

Director Michael Cuesta follows up his debut film L.I.E. with another harrowing coming-of-age tale in TWELVE AND HOLDING. Cuesta casts young Conor Don...

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Review of "12 And Holding (DVD)"

published 06/05/2010 | thedevilinme
Member since : 13/05/2008
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Pro Dark and funny
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"And a dozen reasons to see this..."

Any film that starts with a child being burnt alive-although unseen-has the power to go anywhere. And this one from the director of the equally testing and controversial independent movie 'L.I.E', can't wait to spiral off in unsettling directions for his second feature here. Those are my kind of movies. Taking us out of our comfort zone is the way film really impacts.

Like the title suggests this cozy low budget independent film centers around the trails and tribulations of that tricky age before becoming that stroppy thing called a 'teenager', dens and sleep-overs soon to be discarded for sexual awakening, spots, and general mischief.

Filmed in wobbly camera (16mm) '12 and Holding' enjoys getting intimate with the challenges of adolescence-the films occasionally dark themes illuminated by streaks of likewise humor. But it also has a moral centre and message that ultimately it's the parents that shape the kids at critical junctures in their lives and so we can never escape that responsibility, especially as we, too, have already learnt that hard lesson called life through the gateway of the teenage experience. With a young and talented cast who are actually living that time in their lives then you get the full emotional hit here.

-The Cast-

Conor Donovan ... Jacob / Rudy Carges
Jesse Camacho ... Leonard Fisher
Zoe Weizenbaum ... Malee Chuang
Jeremy Renner ... Gus Maitland
Annabella Sciorra ... Carla Chuang
Jayne Atkinson ... Ashley Carges
Linus Roache ... Jim Carges
Marcia DeBonis ... Grace Fisher
Tom McGowan ... Patrick Fisher
Michael C. Fuchs ... Kenny (as Michael Fuchs)
Martin Campetta ... Jeff
Joseph Foster ... Keith Gardner (as Joseph 'C.J.' Foster)
Max Miner ... Tommy
Noelle 'Parker' Present ... Haley Fisher
Jessica Sorto ... Sara Fisher

-The narrative-

The story is set in a green and tranquil New Jersey middleclass superb, the local kids speeding lazy afternoons in tree-houses by day and enjoying playful sleep-overs by night, where friendships are sealed. It's the long summer holidays and the best time of there lives. The children in question all have their issues, of course, as we all did at that age, mostly because of their less than model parents.
Leonard (Jesse Comancho) is a fat boy from a fat family, his parents not exactly enforcing diets, whilst precocious Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum) is an only child of a messy interracial divorce, mum Carla Chaung (Annabelle Sciorra) finding it hard to relate to her daughters maturity. Our third and final protagonist is Jacob (Conor Donovan), a twin with a birthmark, feeling like his more popular and perfect brother Rudy (also played by Donovan) is mum and dads favorite because of Jacobs's imperfections. But what ever their pain each has to deal with their family situation in their own way, the intimate friendships between the three the common bond in the early idyllic narrative.

But their world is about to crack apart when Jacobs brother is accidentally killed in a terrible fire when two rival boys torch the local tree-house, the chilling screams a constant imprint on Jacobs tortured soul from there on in, revenge now the only thing on his mind to repay the 'perfect' brother he worshiped as a matter of duty. With the bad boys locked up in 'Juvey' after a lenient plea-bargain he will have to bide his time.

Malee's life is also about to catch fire, but in a firestorm of lust for rugged thirtysomething builder Gus (Jeremy Renner), who is putting up a house on the sight of the tragedy, the contractors burying the pain for the Carges family, dad Jim (Linus Roache) all too keen to sell up now. But for tubby Leonard, life never changes, his obese parents stuffing him full of fatty food every meal time, admonishing him when he doesn't pig out so not to make themselves feel guilty of being even more obese. But when dad (Tom McGowan) refuses to take him on the family holiday, leaving him home with mom (Marcia DeBonis), Leonard decides to encourage her to diet in his own unique dieting experience. Leonard's football team coach is making him sweat it off so why not make mum lose some pounds. Its time for some cruel love. It seems Rudy's death has set a series of events in motion, just like turning 13 seems to do.

-The Director-

Just a mention here for Michael Questa, writer and director of this intelligent and thoughtful film. Questa' likes to play with stereotypes like homosexuality and race and then weaves them into his narratives to rationalize those prejudices we have, and then flip people's obtuse fears on there side.
In his virgin movie, L.I.E., he tackled rent boys and confused sexuality, but with the twist that the main gay character was liberated and so not held back by his sexuality, able to mentor those around him, straight or gay. Here he nibbles at themes of race and obesity, how being fat or having a birthmark can be just as traumatic as being of a different skin color. Is racism really about imperfections and your place in the food chain? Michael Questa loves to ask those questions. This film won't answer many but at least it makes you mess around with ideas in your head.


Imdb.com scores it 7.60 out of 10 (1, 6110 votes)


12 and Holding is just one of those thought provoking movies that fits nicely into your three for seven quid weekly deal at Blockbusters... You have your action movie, your foreign movie, and now your independent movie, money shared around the genres for more of the same to be made, thank you very much.
What I like most about this is the acting by the kids, putting experienced thespians like Linus Roach and the sensual Annabella Sciorra to shame. They just nail that range of emotions you get as kids at this critical age and express that age of lessening innocence so succinctly, as they should for actors around the same age. Malees storyline where she teases the guy with her hidden sexuality is bold and original to say the least. Making the kids the central and more mature characters, as in Rob Reiners-'Stand by Me' and the chaos of Ted Solondz-'Palindromes', gives this the movie real meaning and texture. I just dig those types of films that mess around with the great order of things. I think 12 and Holding is one of those films that fits snug into that group. But it's not for ITV viewers and so only rent it if you want to engage your nut.

Summary: How films should be made...

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Comments on this review

  • mousy86 published 13/09/2017
    great review x
  • Saraa23 published 13/09/2017
  • danielclark691 published 03/06/2015
    well reviewed
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Director Michael Cuesta follows up his debut film L.I.E. with another harrowing coming-of-age tale in TWELVE AND HOLDING. Cuesta casts young Conor Donovan as his lead, with the impressive actor playing twins--the sociable athlete Rudy and the distinctly introspective Jacob. Joining Donovan in the cast are Jesse Camacho as Leonard, a paunchy kid reminiscent of Jerry O'Connell's Vern in STAND BY ME, and Zoe Weizenbaum as Malee, a quietly disturbed young girl with a fractured family life. The five 12-year-olds are close friends, but their lives are thrown into turmoil when a prank by local bullies goes horribly wrong and Rudy is burned alive in a tree house. As Jacob's parents fall apart at the news, the rudderless surviving twin realizes he can't rely on them for support, so he makes the surprising decision to make regular visits to the two brothers who killed Rudy as they languish in a juvenile detention centre. Meanwhile, Malee copes with the tragedy by obsessing over an attractive older guy named Gus (Jeremy Renner) and Leonard gets on a health kick despite his overweight parents' protestations. Cuesta's film draws on elements of similar genre favorites, not only STAND BY ME but Jacob Estes's MEAN CREEK and even the work of Todd Solondz and Gregg Araki. But TWELVE AND HOLDING is not a facile reproduction of other work; instead it's a startling kids'-eye view of poor parenting and woeful neglect. The four leads give astonishingly mature performances, and Cuesta manages to surpass his meagre budget by creating a stylistic tour-de-force that may leave anxious parents wondering what their kids are doing in their spare time.


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