An American Crime (2007)
Directed by: Tommy O’Haver
Starring: Ellen Page (Sylvia Likens), Catherine Keener (Gertrude Baniszewski), Hayley McFarland (Jenny Likens), Ari Graynor (Paula Baniszewski), James Franco (Andy), Michael O’Keefe (Reverend) , Bradley Whitford (Prosecutor)
Country: United States
Language: English (English Subtitles)
Genres: Domestic Abuse, Captivity-Kidnapping, Violence against Women, Torture, Women In Prison, Old-Young, Based on a True Story, Siblings-Family
Plot – Spoilers:
Teen sisters Sylvia and Jenny Likens are placed in the care of single mom Gertrude Baniszewski, when their parents decide to go on a carnival tour. Gertrude is vaguely known to them from church and the parents trust her given her clean social image as a struggling mom with a brood of kids.
Gertrude who is asthmatic and often on medication, struggles to run the house on the odd ironing jobs she hustles in the neighbourhood. Things however roll along pleasantly for a while. The first signs of her cracking happen when the Likens’ weekly cheques don’t arrive on time and the sisters are taken down into the basement for a whipping. Gertrude seems sad about beating the girls, almost like such a rule was set in stone, and she was merely following it. And so, the girls don’t take it too bad. But things begin to go weird when one of Gertrude’s daughters, Paula, accuses Sylvia of spreading lies about her in the community. Sylvia is then subjected to weeks of the most horrific abuse – horrific because Gertrude’s kids and the neigbouring kids are encouraged to participate.
This is the second movie to be made on the torture of Sylvia Likens, the other being The Girl Next Door. Oddly, both movies came out the same year, 2007.
So why did Gertrude do what she did?
Is it as simple as she was mentally unsound?
Or could it be an ageing vain woman with grown daughters feeling her irrelevance to men, finding succour in bullying a helpless and meek pretty girl who is not her own, thereby making it easier to justify the brutality to her own guilt?
One aspect that repeatedly comes up even during the court proceedings is how meek and accepting of her punishment and torture Sylvia was. This makes it more understandable as to why Paula thought it ok to lie to her mother about Sylvia telling everyone Paula was a slut. It’s almost like Paula was drowning out the noise of being knocked up and discarded by directing everyone’s attention to the crimes of an easy target.
Catherine Keener and Ellen Page shine through, with Keener’s performance being so powerful, that during the final scene where Syliva dies, you can’t help but feel the urge to club the disease out of her nasty head.
holy shit evan peters is in this
An excellent portrayal of the real life events. The film plays no biases and takes an objective stand point as it should. My only complaint is that I wish they would show more of the abuse that happened to fully convey the message. I recommend watching this and “Girl Next Door” together as they are the same story essentially.
First Impression: 7.2/10
Hard to believe shit like this happens, but it does. Good movie.
I didnt even knew Evan Peters was in this. I screamed when I saw him lol
The whole case about Sylvia Likens is awful. Gertrude was a fucking evil bitch.
Ellen Page decided she wanted a cock….now it’s “Elliot Page”.
Such a sad movie. Yes, its effed up but I felt more emotional than shocked watching this. Knowing its partly based on a true story and the thought of a person being so cruel to an innocent child makes me feel anger at the world and very saddened.
i have a beer bottle in my ass its stuck
yeah this is a good film, but Page is a little too cutesy to be convincing, kinda the hollywood version of The Girl Next Door, (also on this great site) which is way more grittier and in alot of ways better. Thanks Again Effedup
Sorry, but there is nothing objective about thus movie. The film endeavors to excuse old Gerdie because she was a “victim” of a judgemental patriarchal society that shamed Women for many things. Fair enough. But scores of Women in those times fell victim to this kind of sexual shaming but did not express their shame via the torture and eventual murder of an adolescent female. Gertrude was a (non-consensual) sexual sadist who enjoyed enlisting the aid of other teens to torture one of their peers because for the thrill of exerting power over those who were easily influenced. Like most victim feminist 3rd wave tripe, an American crime puts forth the proposition that all Women suffer so greatly under “male oppression & sexual guilt” that it makes some poor, pitiful Women sink into a state of Stockholm syndrome in order to deal with their burden. The truth is that this proposition is more of a foray in the dark than anything profound and scientifically proven. Religion, specifically the Judaeo-xtian–islamic ethic, is what gave ALL of us the gift of sexual guilt. An ethic that Women have embraced with as much ruthless zeal as Men. Lastly, Jenny Likens did NOT forgive Gertrude for what she did as the movie so boldly states at it’s conclusion. When Jenny read that Gertrude had died she said “Well the bitch is dead. I guess there is some good news in the world!”. But anything to make it appear as if the ” evil boys club” was responsible for it all right? Even distortions, half-truths and outright fucking lies.
Ellen was a beautiful girl . . . Evil and had rocks in her head maybe, but still a beautiful girl.