Imagine a teenage girl who can do anything she wants. She has a voluptuous figure, and she is strikingly beautiful. She drives an expensive sports car, lives in a sprawling home off Mulholland Drive, and spends her huge quantities of free time working as a high-class call girl. Her mother spends most of her time in a drunken, drugged-out stupor on the couch, and this leaves the girl largely unsupervised or disciplined. The luxuries and freedoms in her life are not enough for young Mini. She resents her mother to the point that she begins terrorizing her as a means of making her think she has lost her mind. Mini is obsessed with "first" times. She enjoys shocking people with her antics, until the stakes get raised to the point where the situation spirals out of control.
As Mini, Nikki Reed, best known for playing the unstable, vindictive best friend in the terrific film Thirteen, delivers her lines with a deadpan, world-weary sense of self-assurance. She commands the screen, carrying the film with little difficulty, however Mini's First Time would have been much better as a suspense thriller than as the black comedy it aspires to be. The character of Mini is completely unsympathetic; she is selfish, spoiled, and unlikable. In a true black comedy, this would be acceptable. In a film that cannot quite establish itself within that genre, it is unacceptable. Viewers need to be able to root for the main character in some way, and with Mini, it's nearly impossible to do. Rooting for Mini's equally selfish, wealthy, stepfather/lover is impossible as well, which doesn't leave more than a sense of mild amusement in the shenanigans going on.
Mini's First Time is filled with big names: Alec Baldwin plays the stepfather, Luke Wilson is a suspicious detective, and Jeff Goldblum plays a neighbor. As Mini's mother, Carrie-Anne Moss has the best time stomping around, throwing things at her husband, and screaming at her friends at the top of her lungs. Her scenes are among the strongest in the entire film.
At about 35 minutes into the film, as it switches from a mild, teasing, middle-aged man's fantasy-come-true to a murder investigation, the plot becomes more compelling, thanks to Luke Wilson's presence. As the investigator, he brings a sense of gravity to the fluffy look-what-a-bad-girl-Mini-is scenes that dominate the first part of the film. That said, the blasé narration by the character of Mini is mostly ineffective, and the interrogation scenes, featuring a coolly unruffled Mini, are lifted right out of Basic Instinct.
Nikki Reed more than proved her acting chops in the riveting film she co-wrote, Thirteen. Here's hoping she can find another movie worthy of her considerable talents. Mini's First Time doesn't quite cut it.
Presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, the picture is very good. The colors in this film are especially clear. Mini's red, glossy lipstick practically jumps off the screen, and a brief shot of the famous Century City skyline almost looks 3-D.
Mini's First Time features a Dolby Digital 2.0 English audio track, with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The sound quality is excellent. There is not much of a soundtrack, but when music plays, it is crystal clear, and it truly adds to the overall experience. Whether lines are being shouted or whispered, the sound is great.
An audio commentary by writer/director Nick Guthe is the only special feature included. The problem with commentaries is that if the film isn't too great to start with, what is the point of re-watching the film in order to listen to the commentary?
Guthe aims his commentary at aspiring filmmakers, providing helpful suggestions as well as background on how the film came to be. Interestingly enough, Guthe had the opportunity to meet with someone close to Kevin Spacey, who in turn arranged a meeting with Spacey himself. This helps to explain some of the star power attached to the film, thanks to Spacey's A-list status. He also discusses the lack of nudity in the film. Star Nikki Reed, at only age 16, was too young to bare her breasts on-screen, so the filmmakers had to be creative in how they created a sexy look for her without having her bare all.
Overall, the commentary is quite effective and interesting. Guthe provides a terrific mix of details regarding the actual making of the film and tidbits about the story itself. Viewers who actually enjoy the film will love the commentary, but the real value is in Guthe's studied attempt to educate novice filmmakers and remain interesting at the same time. He achieves this easily.
A featurette would have been nice as well, but considering the small, independent nature of the film, perhaps it wasn't in the budget.
Mini's First Time is maybe worth a rental. Leave your expectations at the door, however. It makes for a fairly diverting 90 minutes, but the minute it's over, you'll forget you ever watched it.