Film Scouts Reviews

"Digging to China"

by Richard Schwartz

Buy this video from
Timothy Hutton's acting debut was 1980's "Ordinary People," which also marked Robert Redford's first time at the helm. Now Hutton has returned to Redford's Sundance Festival with a directorial debut of his own, the slice-of-life drama "Digging to China." If Hutton's first feature occasionally wallows in the disease-movie-of-the-week doldrums, then "Digging to China" also glides on the strength of newcomer Evan Rachel Wood's performance. The nine-year-old Wood manages to steal virtually every scene in which she appears without dragging the film into an overly cute sitcomlike state. She stars as the wide-eyed, imaginative Harriet, a third-grader whose time is spent looking for UFOs and digging to China, just about anything but helping her single mother and nasty sister manage their rustic roadside North Carolina motel. Then along comes the mentally disabled Ricky (Kevin Bacon) and his mother, seeking refuge for a few days after their car breaks down. Of course, Harriet befriends Ricky and they strike up a unique relationship overshadowed by Ricky's imminent departure to a local convalescence home.

Unfortunately, Bacon's less-than-subtle turn as the developmentally challenged Ricky often borders on caricature. At times, one gets the feeling that Bacon's only research for the role was watching Billy Bob in "Sling Blade" and Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman" and then combining both into a third-rate impersonation. Karen Janszen's script provides little help, often ensnaring plot in the predictable. Still, that can't detract from the work of Evan Rachel Wood or Mary Stuart Masterson as the sister (both actresses with three names, including one masculine - only Joey Heather Adams is missing in this movie!). Director Hutton displays a knack for creating a distinct sense of time and place, but will he continue to choose these somewhat formulaic "Ordinary People" tearjerker projects or stretch into more daring territory?

Back to 1998 Sundance Film Festival Reviews

Back to Digging to China

Back to the Press Room

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.