|Directed by||Jacob Aaron Estes|
|Produced by||Susan Johnson
|Written by||Jacob Aaron Estes|
|Editing by||Madeleine Gavin|
|Distributed by||Paramount Classics|
|Release dates||January 15, 2004 (Sundance)
May 14, 2004 (Cannes)
August 20, 2004 (limited)
|Running time||89 min.|
Mean Creek is a 2004 American independent drama film written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes and starring Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, and Carly Schroeder. It was produced by Susan Johnson, Rick Rosenthal, and Hagai Shaham. The movie was filmed and set in a small town in Oregon.
The film is about a group of teenagers and young adults who devise a plan to humiliate an overweight, troubled bully on a boating trip. When their plan goes too far, they have to deal with the unexpected consequences of their actions. The movie was filmed mostly in Clackamas County, Oregon, including the cities of Boring, Sandy, and Estacada, though footage on the river was filmed on the Lewis River in southwest Washington.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004, and was later screened at the Cannes Film Festival that spring. The film was then given a limited release in major cities on August 20, 2004, mostly playing at art house theaters.
When small and shy Sam (Rory Culkin) admits to his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) that the school bully, a dyslexic boy named George (Josh Peck) has hurt him, Rocky devises a plan to exact revenge. Sam moved George's video camera while George was filming himself trying to play basketball. This caused George to become angry and attack Sam.
Rocky recruits his friends, Clyde and Marty, to assist him with his plan. Clyde (Ryan Kelley) is a shy teenager who is constantly harassed by Marty (Scott Mechlowicz), because of Clyde's gay fathers. Marty is an angry and violent young man, traumatized by his father's suicide years earlier. Part of the prank entails taking George on a boating trip to celebrate Sam's birthday party. The ultimate joke, in their opinion, will be when they get him to strip in a game of truth or dare, then make him run home naked.
Sam invites his girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) along. He does not tell her the plan until they arrive near the river. Millie refuses to continue until Sam promises that he will call the plan off, which Sam agrees to do. Sam tells his brother to stop, and Rocky tells his friends what Sam has conveyed to him. Although Clyde has no problem with it, Marty is very reluctant to not go through with the plan. Throughout the trip, George attempts clumsily to fit in with the others by telling jokes, which the other members of the group do not find amusing. The group soon realizes that although George is annoying, he is very lonely and just wants to be accepted.
On the boat, Marty goes against the others by starting a game of truth or dare, though the rest decide to go along. After George shoots Marty with a water gun in good fun, George makes a funny quip about Marty's father, not remembering that it is a sore subject. This sets Marty off, who tells George the whole plan and starts to ridicule him.
Angered and humiliated, George launches into a tirade against everyone else on the boat, excluding Rocky, ending by crudely mocking Marty's dead father. Marty snaps and Rocky, in an attempt to stop the fight, accidentally pushes George off the boat. Unable to swim, George struggles to remain afloat in the water. As the others regard the scene in horror, George accidentally hits his head with his video camera and does not come to the surface. Rocky dives into the water but is unable to find George. Minutes later, George appears face down in the shallow water close to the shore. Rocky exhorts the others to help him bring George to shore, where Millie gives him CPR. The effort is in vain as George is dead and it is apparent that he cannot be revived.
The group is traumatized and in fear of being charged for murder. They dig a hole and bury George. Clyde's plan is to explain that it was an accident but Marty threatens them, gaining the complicity of both Clyde and the rest of the group. As they had already tricked George into not telling his mother where he was going, she would not know of their involvement. Marty speaks to the only witnesses of George with the group, his brother and his brother's friend, and they agree to keep quiet.
Marty goes to tell the news to his friends, who have all gathered at Sam and Rocky's house. They are willing to accept the consequences as opposed to having the guilt of George's death hanging over their heads. Marty refuses to turn himself in and feels betrayed by all of them. He storms out and convinces his brother to give him his gun and car. The brother again agrees to the favor, albeit reluctantly. Marty robs a gas station with the gun and drives off, becoming a fugitive. Meanwhile, the others go to George's house and confess to his mother.
Sam is later seen in a confession room telling the story to the police, who later find and view the tape from George's video camera. In a final scene, audio of George explaining his dream of becoming a filmmaker and documenting his life plays in the background while Sam watches the sheriff exhume George's body.
- Rory Culkin as Sam
- Josh Peck as George
- Scott Mechlowicz as Marty
- Trevor Morgan as Rocky
- Carly Schroeder as Millie
- Ryan Kelley as Clyde
The film was met with acclaim by most professional critics. Mean Creek received a 90% rating from Rotten Tomatoes (104 fresh and 12 rotten reviews). Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times thought "it could have been simple-minded and predictable, but it becomes a rare film about moral choices, about the difficulty of standing up against pressure from your crowd."