Published Aug 01, 2004Mean Creek is a film that spins out of control like a jet before a collision. What starts out as a plan to cruelly humiliate an abusive bully takes a shocking twist once the bully becomes more identifiable. The teens no longer hate George (Josh Peck) and pray for his quick death to relieve them from his constant torment, but instead take pity on him and see him as a tragic social outcast who desires to belong.
Much like Stand By Me, where the railroad tracks were a metaphor for growing up, the river here serves the same purpose. Except here the river is filled with an exhausting, impending doom. We begin to see Marty go wildly out of control, becoming verbally abusive and dangerous when his friends decide they don't want to go through with the prank anymore. Scott Mechlowicz plays Marty with an intense anger; he has been traumatised by his father's suicide and his brother's constant physical abuse, and in turn he takes this unresolved anger out on George and the group. Sean Penn may have taken this role when he was in his early 20s.
The other notable in this cast is George, who's probably an outcast because of his weight, has severe insecurity and shows hints of perversion and cruelty. He is not detestable, just pitiful, and the kids, except Marty, see this.
Mean Creek is a powerful allegory about the realisation that most bullies are victims themselves of something. The film doesn't forgive bullies but instead looks underneath the roughness and abuse to discover lonely, sad or abused humans and takes pity on them. It also shows how the victims of bullying will go from wishing death to taking action, ends up with the characters discovering what goes on behind George's mind and after the tragic fate, becomes about responsibility and growing up. (Paramount Classics)