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.
Huston's movie seems to disappoint some who've read the novel, but the forlorn humanity that triumphs over the depravity and poverty is unforgettably affecting. [13 Dec 1996, p.1D]
Los Angeles Times
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]
Huston's direct style and subtle touch keep Bastard from becoming a sociological treatise. Not for a moment can we forget that these are people hurting people. [13 Dec 1996, p.C28]
Huston films the horrifying assault scenes to provoke disgust, outrage, fear and pity. She doesn't flinch. She refuses to soften the situation. Her Carolina is painful to watch. It's meant to be. [13 Dec 1996, p.65nc]
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]
Mick LaSalleSan Francisco Chronicle
The movie is directed by Anjelica Huston, and like a lot of actors who direct, Huston shows an ability to elicit strong emotions from her actors. But Huston also demonstrates a sense of where to place the camera. [13 Dec 1996, p.C1]
Noel MurrayThe A.V. Club
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.
Lisa SchwarzbaumEntertainment Weekly
The agonizing moments that convey what it's like for Bone to feel helpless and afraid of Daddy Glen even when he's not torturing her are where the art is. The pornographic violence is artifice. [13 Dec 1996]