Lawn Dogs is an unrelentingly artsy, essence-of-indie-shaped drama about a 10-year-old girl (Mischa Barton), a misfit in stereotypically dead suburbia, who befriends the local gardener (Sam Rockwell), a 21-year-old loner who lives in a trailer in the woods and is held in general disdain and distrust by the uniformly obnoxious locals.
Australian director John Duigan (Sirens) tries for a dreamy fairy-tale feeling, complete with allusions to an old folk fable about the evil witch Baba Yaga, but the overloaded story defeats his efforts. (Among the plot details that don’t matter: She’s got a torso scar from heart surgery; his is from a bullet.) Rockwell (Box of Moonlight) still hasn’t found a film role to showcase his considerable acting chops. But Barton projects a fascinating, unsettling mix of Lolitalike sexuality, actressy sophistication, and vulnerable innocence. C+