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Rachel (Julia Garner), a sheltered teenager from a fundamentalist Christian community, believes in immaculate conception and chastity as she tells her pastor father (Billy Zane) in his taped interview with her on her 15th birthday, a bit of a family/faith ritual. But when she sneaks into the forbidden basement to play back the interview, she comes across another tape, a male cover version of Blondie's Hanging on the Telephone, with which she is rather taken. Her older brother, Mr. Will (Liam Aiken) comes in to tell her off and they wrestle on the ground. When mum (Cynthia Watros) comes in she gets the wrong impression - which triggers a chain of events when Rachel is found to be pregnant. She asserts it was the music not a man, but dad is arranging an urgent marriage to a neighbour's boy. Rachel is horrified and runs away to Las Vegas, where she meets Clyde (Rory Culkin).

Review by Louise Keller:
Immaculate conception via a cover version of Blondie's iconic 1978 tune Hanging on the Telephone, a red Mustang convertible and a idealistic notion of love are the ingredients of this unusual, quirky and voyeuristic film as its 15 year old virgin Mormon protagonist is exposed to the big bad world. The set up and mood of Rebecca Thomas' debut film is beautifully established with a gargantuan contrast between the remote, pious Utah and the trashy excesses of Las Vegas. It's a shame that the screenplay lets the film down with a contrivance of a coincidence that somewhat shatters the spell. Especially as porcelain-skinned Julia Garner, with her wide-eyed, naivety, youthful exuberance and blond corkscrew curls as the protagonist, is spellbinding.

The world in which Rachel (Garner) lives with her devout Pastor father Paul (Billy Zane) and mother Gay Lynn (Cynthia Watros), is controlled and extreme. As Rachel answers her father's ritualistic questions on her 15th birthday (her words recorded on a tape recorder), we learn that she has never seen such a machine before. She addresses her brother (Liam Aiken) as Mr Will, which is indicative of the family's commonplace formality. The key plot point involving Rachel's finding of a blue tape on which a male voice sings the haunting song that raunchy Deborah Harry sang on Blondie's Parallel Lines album, triggers the relevance and significance of the secret bedtime story her mother tells about her conception - involving the elusive red Mustang.

When found to be pregnant, the virginal Rachel's assertion that the conception occurred while listening to the music, results in a quarrel, and her taking the truck keys to drive from the barren landscape of Utah to the brash vulgarity of Vegas. The initial scenes when Rachel (accompanied Mr Will, who happened to be in the back of the pick-up truck) tries to find the man who sings the song on the blue tape, but ends up with the booze-loving, drug-taking Johnny (John Patrick Amedori) and Clyde (Rory Culkin) are too unbelievable. But the development of Clyde's character and Culkin's memorable performance, as Clyde is taken by Rachel's home-spun innocence, is one of the film's lovely surprises. The story twists, however, venture one step too far.

The contrasts are formidable and Garner (also notable in The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is a talent to watch.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Gently squirming out of the embrace of logic and rationality, Rebecca Thomas' debut feature pivots on the premise that innocent 15 year old girl, Rachel (Julia Garner) firmly believes that she is pregnant in an immaculate conception - thanks to the song, Hanging on the Telephone sung on a tape by a man unknown to her. She discovers the tape by accident in the basement, where she is looking for the taped interview with her father (Billy Zane) just to hear her own voice after her first encounter with a tape recorder.

The sweet faced Rachel may be naïve but she is not weak nor a victim so when dad wants her to marry the neighbour's son for the sake of decorum, she runs away. To Las Vegas no less. Suspicion had fallen on Rachel's brother, Mr. Will (Liam Aiken), who was in fact wrestling with Rachel on the basement floor to take away the tape when mum (Cynthia Watros) walked in.

Mr. Will is ejected from the family and stowing away in the back of the family pickup truck, he gets an unexpected ride to Las Vegas and keeps trying to get Rachel's confession on tape so he can clear his name. And Rachel looks for the singer whose song dun it ...

With a film of such whimsy and magic realism, the tone is all important and Thomas manages to maintain the delicate balance between drama and comedy. Above all, Garner delivers an outstanding performance as Rachel who truly believes what she claims, which makes it easier for us to believe her and thus retain the serious undertone. The lightness of touch is maintained through all the adventures in Las Vegas where we see the sleaze through her fresh, innocent blue eyes.

Everyone is excellent, and Rory Culkin is a revelation as the middle class dropout kid who hangs around with skateboarding rock musos and warms to Rachel. He combines the soppiness of a puppy with the world weariness of a lad who has seen too much too early in life.

Thomas, brought up in a Mormon community, treats the family with respect - but she uses a red Mustang as both literal and symbolic key to the story's heart. It is part of a secret story the mother tells her daughters, which fights for resonance with Rachel's story. The film works for all those who allow it the freedom to float in and out of fact or logic based realities. Flawed but fascinating.

Published April 28, 2013

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(US, 2012)

CAST: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken, Bill Sage, Cynthia Watros, Billy Zane, John Patrick Amedori, Rachel Pirard, Cassidy Gard

PRODUCER: Jessica Caldwell, Richard Neustadter

DIRECTOR: Rebecca Thomas

SCRIPT: Rebecca Thomas

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mattias Troelstrup

EDITOR: Jennifer Lilly

MUSIC: Eric Colvin


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes





DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Gryphon Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 18, 2013

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