‘Short Term 12′ pits grittiness against indie cliches

Brie Larson counsels Keith Stanfield in the youth drama "Short Term 12." Credit: Cinedigm
Brie Larson counsels Keith Stanfield in the youth drama “Short Term 12.”
Credit: Cinedigm

‘Short Term 12’
Director: Destin Cretton
Stars: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr.
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

There’s a lot to admire in “Short Term 12,” a sincere indie about a foster care facility for at-risk kids that looks at it from the perspective of its twentysomething supervisors. The acting, from former teen pop star Brie Larson as a dour, young caretaker on down is excellent without being showoffy. It’s appropriately sensitive and never sentimental about the woes plaguing charges and their superiors alike. Director Destin Cretton, expanding on a 2008 short, takes his time, slowly and methodically filling in a microcosm weighed down with the heaviness of trauma.

It’s also something of a cliche — the exact kind of indie that feigns gritty honesty being far too controlled and, ultimately, far too reassuring. Larson’s Grace is the longtime employee of a facility alongside her live-in boyfriend Mason (a scruffy John Gallagher Jr., “The Newsroom”). She has her own secret demons, and to underline the divide that separates her from her lover — and everyone else — she rides a bicycle by herself everywhere. This is called “subtlety.”

Few of the young charges get significant screentime. Instead the narrative considers two chief cases. There’s Marcus (Keith Stanfield), the only African American — angry and sensitive, who bottles everything up and sometimes erupts in verbal and physical violence. And there’s Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), whose sarcasm and standoffishness (she doesn’t want to mingle with people she’ll know only briefly) of course masks a horrific secret. Grace sees a lot of herself in Jayden. In fact, she has a similar past, because this is that kind of movie.

“Short Term 12” believes in its cliches and in its predictability, and has a dispassionate tone to almost charm (if that’s the word) its way out of any charges of inauthenticity. It almost gets away with it too. There are times when Cretton’s sincere but tough approach pays off huge, as when Marcus performs a too-revelatory rap for Mason — a scene whose hoariness is upended by the intensity of its shooting and of the actors’ performances. (Mason’s awkward reaction is note-perfect.) Other times it’s too much the poster child for a certain, dubious kind of cinema. It vies for realism and sets up a series of messy situations — and of course, it’s all tidily wrapped up by the too-cute ending.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

National

The best places to see the Northern Lights…

A large solar storm hit the Earth's atmosphere and will tonight illuminate the skies with aurora borealis -- also known as the Northern Lights.

Local

Police officer killed Sunday morning Bronx crash, 8…

One NYPD police officer was killed and eight other officers were injured early Sunday morning when the van they were traveling in crashed  in the…

National

Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.

Television

'How to Get Away with' mischaracterizing Shondra Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes read Alessandra Stanley's New York Times piece about her being "an angry black woman" and "a romance writer" and it did not sit well with her.

Gossip

New nude celebrity selfies leak … and Clay…

A new batch of nude selfies of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Lake Bell and Avril Lavigne hit the web and Clay Aiken has something to say!

Television

James Spader's route to villainy on "The Blacklist"

In honor of the second season premiere of "The Blacklist" tonight, where James Spader plays good guy/bad guy Raymond “Red” Reddington, it’s a good time to look back at Spader’s…

Television

True Detective

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

NFL

Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.

NFL

3 things we learned as Giants pick up…

The Giants picked up their first win of the season over the Texans.

Career

Here's how to make the most of visit…

You’re primped, you’re looking polished, you’re prepared with a stack of resumes. Job fair hunters, unite! There are a few things to keep in mind…

Education

Learn how to study effectively and stop cramming…

Picture this: It’s midterm week, and college students everywhere are trying to frantically memorize all of the math formulas, political theories and historical facts that…

Parenting

How motherhood inspired Bethenny Frankel's new book

Bethenny Frankel's new children's book is about how her daughter and dog didn't always get alone.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.