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Wednesday, Nov 28 2007

Shot concurrently with a "raising awareness" documentary on child prostitution in Southeast Asia (by the tellingly named Priority Films), Holly snatches images out of soiled Cambodian red-light districts, slips figures on sex trafficking into its screenplay, and numbers a reformer heroine and an unrepentant pederast evildoer among its characters.

The titular Holly (Thuy Nguyen) is an abandoned preadolescent Vietnamese with her virginity on the auction block; Patrick (Ron Livingston), the Westerner's entree into her universe, is an unmoored American expat who suddenly grabs onto the idea of saving her. Livingston initially seems unable to shoulder his share of the movie — his pale, undistinguished handsomeness suggests something undercooked, and as a boozy card sharp, he doesn't exude enough attrition — but shades of ambiguity gradually suggest depths beneath his blankness. And though the storytelling is haphazard, artistry often transcends mere good intentions. Director Guy Moshe scavenges color from the torn fringes of Phnom Penh, and the composer Ton-That Tiet provides a spare score, laying bleary sadness over the art-house muckraking.

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Nick Pinkerton


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