Faster than you can say "Dakota Fanning Rape Project," the Toronto Film Festival screenings of Alan Ball's Nothing is Private should produce a level of buzz-building, pre-acquisition outrage unseen since the first reports that universally beloved/feared child star Fanning's cinematic virtue would be stolen at the 2006 edition of Sundance. Outraged Fox 411 gossip columnist Roger Friedman previews his early candidate for Feel-Awful Movie of 2007, in which Aaron Eckhart, perhaps overcompensating for the guilt of cashing his No Reservations paycheck, returns to the darker In the Company of Men/Your Friends & Neighbors material of his early career:
The movie — so odious that many people have simply walked out during the screenings — shows actor Aaron Eckhart having sex with a 13-year-old girl played by a now 19-year-old actress, Summer Bishil. The actress only turned 19 recently, however, which means that she was just on the cusp of 18 when she made the movie last year. [...]
Eckhart, best known for roles in "Erin Brockovich" and "Thank You for Smoking" inexplicably agreed to this part. His character initially takes the girl's virginity by fondling her, in a very graphic scene that leaves nothing to the imagination.
Later, he sodomizes her. In between, his pedophilia is played in such a way that the first and only thought is that we're watching kiddie porn.
If Ball — who regularly toyed with conventions in his TV show and in "American Beauty" — thought all this would somehow illuminate the tragedy of child abuse, he was wrong. Too much is shown and too many lines are crossed for "Nothing Is Private" ever to be released by a major studio or distribution company to theatres. If nothing else, the endless "ick" factor involving nearly every character is a permanent obstacle.
We're going to resist the temptation to attempt to poke out our mind's eye with a meat thermometer based on Friedman's critical appraisal alone; after all, this is a film by an actual, Oscar-winning screenwriter who has certainly learned something about the delicate handling of potentially controversial sexual material from his experience of having his American Beauty script translated into an acclaimed motion picture. We're sure whatever early versions of the scenes that precipitated these reported walk-outs can easily be made more aesthetically palatable by the addition of a calming rain of rose petals or a well-timed cutaway to a peacefully floating plastic bag, changes that could defuse further controversy before its next festival screening.