Barefoot (2014) - Review

by - April 02, 2019

Synopsis: The "black sheep" son of a wealthy family meets a young psychiatric patient who's been raised in isolation her entire life. He then takes the naive young woman home for his brother's wedding.

She's Stepping Out Into the World.

Jay Wheeler (Scott Speedman) is the problematic son of an affluent family in New Orleans, currently on probation and working as a janitor in a psychiatric ward. He spends his days frequenting strip clubs and finding ways to bankroll his gambling problem to try and pay back the thousands of dollars he owes to a handful of unsavory characters. Jay finds temporary relief from the potential violent repercussions of his addiction when he has to return home to attend his brother's wedding.

While trying to save face about his situation, Jay informs his father that he's dating a respectable nurse, but Mr. Wheeler (Treat Williams) insists that Jay bring his new girlfriend home for the wedding. After some unsuccessful attempts at persuading his stripper friends to be his date, he decides to take Daisy (Evan Rachel Wood), a new patient at the hospital who recently lost her mother and seems to have the mentality of a five-year-old.

There is probably a dozen and a half things wrong with this movie, and even strong efforts by Wood and Speedman can't save it. It turns out Daisy was more or less held in captivity by her abusive for most of her life, which is why she has such an infantile personality with no concept of social cues, or boundaries. We get brief moments into her life before her mother's death, as she's been taught that cleaning is how you earn love, and she was never allowed to beat her mother in Scrabble. These moments are a bit heartbreaking, but then they're gone, replaced by breathy, wide eyed innocence about even the most basic life skills. She hates wearing shoes. When Daisy needs to use the bathroom, she says she has to go to the "big potty". And yes, she believes that driving will get her pregnant.

Daisy's portrayal is extremely problematic. The film plays off her mental illness as a quirky trait meant to make Daisy endearing to us, and attractive to Jay. Her wardrobe was stolen from a stripper, so not only is she child-life, but she is child-like and dressed in skin-tight, revealing clothing. And to add to the cringe-factor, Jay is the typical bad boy with a good heart who only needs the love of an offbeat free-spirit to save his soul and turn his life around. Given Daisy's situation, the romance that blossoms between them is more creepy than sweet, though they do have some tender moments together after an incredibly ridiculous high-speed chase in a classic RV Jay has stolen from his father.

I wasn't entirely sure what the point of the entire film was supposed to be. Was Jay going to grow up and reconcile with his family? Would Daisy learn how to be self-sufficient and live a meaningful life in the real world? There are brief hints to both of these, but no real closure. Barefoot really had the opportunity to tell an interesting story about mental illness, especially given Daisy's history, but instead, it came across as uneven, implausible and in poor taste.

Starring: Scott Speedman, Evan Rachel Wood, JK Simmons, Treat Williams
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Rated: PG-13
Watched: 04.02.2019
Fun Facts:
Notable Song: Love, Love, Love by Of Monsters and Men

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