Holes (2003)

This whole DailyView thing has really paid some dividends. The fact is that I would never have watched the movie Holes without this binge, and I absolutely LOVED this film.

Stanley Yelnats (Shia LeBeouf) is the youngest member of a family that has been cursed for years since their distant great grandfather ran afoul with a woman named Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt). Bad luck followed them since. It certainly looked as if Stanley was caught in the bad luck as he was falsely arrested for stealing shoes of a major league baseball player that had been donated to a homeless shelter.

Found guilty, Stanley was sent to a camp for wayward boys called Camp Green Lake run by a warden (Sigourney Weaver) who was using the boys to dig holes in the dried up Green Lake. Building character is what they were told, but the camp staff, Mister Sir (Jon Voight) and Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), are mean-spirited and treat the boys poorly.

The boys form groups with a hierarchy within the camp, with the boys taking nicknames instead of using their birth names. Stanley eventually connected with Zero (Khleo Thomas), a young boy who rarely spoke and was considered dumb by everyone.

However, Zero was recognized as the best hole digger in the camp, and it did not take long for Stanley to realize that they were looking for something. When he offered to help Stanley dig his hole if he would help teach him to read, Stanley agreed. This was not popular among the other campers, who caused trouble for them. This led to Zero running off across the hot, dry ex-lake.

As this story was being told, there was another tale being told from the past. We saw the origin of the infamous outlaw “Kissin’ Kate” Barlow (Patricia Arquette), who spent years stealing treasures and giving a kiss to anyone she killed,

Part of the reason this was such a great movie was seeing how these flashbacks were intertwined with the present day story so seamlessly. The writing was crisp and clever and was brilliantly planned out. This was an adaptation of the novel Holes by Louis Sachar, who also wrote the screenplay. From the outside, Holes looks like the typical Disney family fare, but this is considerably deeper than that, with an exceptional plot and characters that were more than they looked.

It was also a much darker film at times than I expected. In particular, the flashbacks to see Patricia Arquette as a teacher who fell for African-American onion seller Sam (Dulé Hill). Their kiss led to a violent response from the people of the town, including the wealthy Charles “Trout” Walker (Scott Plank), who murdered Sam.

The whole storyline of Sam and Katharine was unexpected to see in a Disney movie. It was a huge surprise.

The boys in the camp were fantastic as well, including the debuting Shia LaBeouf. The relationships between the characters were true and they avoided falling into simple stereotypes.

Holes was a mystery story that was told over generations. It was shocking and surprisingly emotional. There were some wonderfully beautiful shots from director Andrew Davis. I am so glad that I finally watched Holes. It was exceptional.

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