The pic is a quality item earmarked for serious auds by its nonexploitative handling of potent material, the strong work of debuting helmer Anjelica Huston and striking perfs from young newcomer Jena Malone, Jennifer Jason Leigh and others.
First-time director Anjelica Huston's frightening film about child abuse is a jolt. And be forewarned: The violence is brutal and the molestation and rape scenes of a child are repugnant. [15 Dec 1996, p.3]
The genetic seeds of John Huston's gift are manifest in his daughter's direction of Carolina. Despite its sorrowful subject, Bastard Out of Carolina offers the deep satisfaction of material that rings true. [15 Dec 1996, p.5]
Huston manages to bring the unavoidable brutality of this story to the screen without seeming exploitative. And she gets good performances out of Malone, Leigh and Eldard. Glenne Headly gives a great performance as Leigh's saintly sister.
Anjelica Huston's directorial debut employs an impressive cast, and at times showcases a promising sense of style. But Bastard Out Of Carolina seems hollow at its center, due largely to the fact that Anne Meredith's screenplay doesn't make very good use of its source material.