I can't think of a human activity I'd recommend less than watching this hackneyed, straining-to-be-lurid domestic drama, the umpteenth cynical attempt to bait today's supposedly alienated teen audience with an overt reiteration of the theme 'life sucks.â?� (Those words are even uttered in the voice-over narration, lest anybody miss the subtle subtext.) An orphaned deaf mute (underage 'itâ?� girl Camilla Belle) gets sent to live with an obnoxious cheerleader (Elisha Cuthbert) and her family, all of whom happen to be hiding an unspeakable secret. Believe it or not, it's a revelation more disturbing than the degree to which mama Edie Falco's short haircut makes her resemble Laugh-In's Henry Gibson.
Director Jamie Babbit has essentially remade American Beauty ' Cuthbert's cheerleader's outfit looks like a hand-me-down from Mena Suvari ' only she's omitted the jokes and placed the action on sets that seem left over from a Michael Mann movie of 20 years ago (lots of blue light streaming into underfurnished rooms that are otherwise darkened for no good reason). Instead of winning sympathy for any of its characters, the movie wallows in exploitation: You know the creative team spent hours getting the blood spattered on one teen's cleavage to look just so. (R; opens Friday, Sept. 1, at Regal Winter Park Village Stadium 20, 407-628-0035)