Based on the sort of tawdry crime story that rates a paragraph in the tabloids-a white-trash teen and her boyfriend kidnap and kill a guy for a little money — Too Young to Die? contains TV’s best portrayal of lower-middle-class life since the adaptation of The Executioner’s Song.
Juliette Lewis plays Amanda, a battered, sexually abused 15-year-old from Tulsa. Running away from home, she hooks up with a small-time hood (Brad Pitt), who convinces her that working as a go-go dancer and prostitute in a seedy dive is the best way to get ahead in life.
Shot up with drugs and threatened with death, she and the hood commit a brutal murder; Amanda is caught and tried as an adult, facing the death penalty.
It is the difficult task of Too Young to Die? to convince us that Amanda is the real victim here, and the movie succeeds, without ever lapsing into cheap psycho-babble or liberal pleading. Instead of preaching, director Robert Markowitz lets the details tell the story.
The cast is first-rate: Lewis invests her hard-eyed, tough-talking Amanda with a fundamental innocence and pain. Every time you look at her, you’re aware of her life of grinding poverty, social humiliation, and bitter despair. Lewis gives her character a dignity that a supposed throwaway like Amanda is rarely granted on TV.
Pitt is a magnificent slimeball as her hoody boyfriend; looking and sounding like a malevolent John Cougar Mellencamp, he’s really scary.
The biggest-name star here is Michael Tucker, ranging far from his L.A. Law role to play a nervous Southern lawyer named Buddy; Tucker is fully up to the challenge.
It’s like I always say, kids: When you least expect it, television does something right. A