Finally seeing the light of day after a controversial Sundance premiere, Tommy O'Haver's deeply disturbing An American Crime debuted on Showtime, ironically, the day before Mother's Day. Based on the heinous true crime story that took place in Indiana in 1966, the film's about poor Sylvia Likens (Ellen Page -- from Juno). She and her sister were left (by their carny parents) to board with a total stranger, Gertrude Baniszewski (Catherine Keener), a single, sickly mother of five who took in laundry and was happy for the $20 a week the parents sent to board their two young daughters. But soon Gertrude starts to punish Sylvia for imagined slights and banishes the girl to the basement where kids from the neighborhood came by to join in abusing the girl. They put cigarettes out on her, kicked and beat her, and carved "I am a prostitute and proud of it" on her stomach. It's an unimaginable horror story. You're so used to seeing Keener as the sarcastically funny indie co-star, that this turn as the defeated, bitter, weary monster "Gertie" is uncomfortably unpleasant. The movie is hell to sit through but really well-made and deserves to be seen. There's also a great book on this crime by Kate Millett called The Basement that is unforgettable.
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