Littlerock is an actual place located in California, in the Los Angeles county. Atsuko and her brother Rintaro find themselves forced to stop in Littlerock after the car they rented breaks down. They are journeying alone through the American province and have travelled all the way from Japan to reaffirm their identity through a visit to the camp of Manzanar where their grandfather was imprisoned during World War II. Their need to rediscover their roots through historical acknowledgement of their ancestry clashes against Atsuko’s longing for a diversion as she finds herself temporarily stuck in Littlerock. Rintaro and Atsuko are driven by opposite motivations. Rintaro is firm in his original plans, the ones that inspired his journey in the first place; Atsuko’s dispositions and desires appear to be completely futile and preposterous, even under a spell of totally egocentric self-assertion.
Following too strictly the aesthetics of hipster movies that heavily rely on language taken on loan from more commercial media like TV series – Dawson’s Creek anybody? – and music video clips rather than from cinema itself, with a smart but unnerving use of indie music to make everything more appealing – Ott even dared to include Icelandic amiina in the soundtrack, claiming they are his favorite band but not caring about misspelling of their song’s title in the ending credits, succeeding in the impossible task of making their music sound unbearably irritating – Littlerock recounts with insipid banality all the commonplaces of the North American province: little stories of juvenile debauchery unfold before doe-eyed Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka). Unable to communicate adequately with the crowd of slackers and maladroit petty delinquents she intentionally confuses for her friends, she eventually discovers herself alone and surrounded by strangers she has entirely misunderstood. Her tendency to introspection had been foolishness all along. And as spectators we feel we were foolish as well, trying to concentrate on almost ninety minutes of gibberish pronounced by awkward characters like the logorrheic Cory or his so-called friends, instead of doing something more constructive with our time.
After the screening of Littlerock a lady in the audience affirmed, talking to director Mike Ott, she had been afraid the whole time for the life and well-being of Atsuko, the leading character. Others felt the same way – yours truly included. Well, afraid is a big word, to be honest. Rather than being afraid for the character in itself, I was afraid of being forced to sit through some hideous racket involving violent behavior perpetrated against the leading lady. Thankfully nothing like that happened. As a matter of fact, Ott managed to steer clear of some of the easiest rhethorical solutions that are much common in the genre of “indie kids” drama. Those solutions often tickle the prudery of an otherwise easily distracted or totally obtuse audience, managing to hide in the eyes of the majority huge deficiencies in the plot or in the characters’ development. Ott – and I assume also the other screenwriters involved, Atsuko Okatsuka and Carl McLaughlin – wisely decided they didn’t need to resort to this kind of tricks to save the movie from itself. A dull movie is a dull movie however you look at it, with or without flashy sexually arousing scenes and absurd display of violence for youngsters with a severe puberty crisis or for middle-aged persons with too much boredom to get rid of and lack of imagination. But that’s about it. Apart from this single note of cleverness the movie doesn’t really seem to shine.
Director: Mike Ott
Runtime: 84 minutes
Language: English, Japanese