Bare full movie review - Beware of overly cynical reviewers
This is not exactly a glowing review, but I do want to address something before I get down to any critique.
Giving a film one star even though you think it deserves more is just a crass and cynical thing to do, and the guy who admits he did so should be ashamed of himself for doing it. There are people who absolutely loved this movie. Fans of the actors in particular, which is to be expected. I myself absolutely loved it when I first saw it at its world premiere, and even rescheduled my flight to go back and watch it again a few days later. The cinematography is brilliant, and the role that Dianna Agron plays is far removed from anything else she's done. Her character is very passive and quiet, and thus it falls on her to act as much with her body language and expressions as her spoken words. She pulls it off brilliantly. If you're like me, you may very well come away with an 8-star feeling on your first viewing.
Having said that, after watching it a few more times I've started to see some of the shortcomings, though I do still think it's a good film. First of all, I think it helps to be able to relate to or imagine growing up not just in a small town, but in a town with literally nothing to offer besides mind-numbing lack of social life and completely menial nowhere jobs. If you can't put yourself in those shoes, you likely will not get a lot of the film's impact. If you've ever had a time in your life where drinking beer by the dump and then shooting at the cans was the highlight of your week, you'll definitely see where this comes from. That's not really a shortcoming, but it does limit what a lot of people can really get out of the story.
As I said above, the cinematography was generally brilliant. The cameras and the way this movie was shot do a great deal to set the scenes, often as much or more than the actors. There are, however, times when this attempt at making art with the cameras actually resulted in scenes that were difficult to understand simply because they were too subtle. Too artistic rather than advancing the narrative. There are also a few times when the narrative is just plain interrupted with awkward dialogue that really could have been either done away with or done better in a perfect world. More on that below.
The main actors, including Sarah's family and friends, were all brilliant with the exception (in my mind) of Paz de la Huerta. She was almost right for the role, but in the end her mannerisms just became too much; too distracting. There were a few scenes where her portrayal was almost like a record skipping in the middle of a song, and honestly she could have toned things down a bit and been better.
One last issue is simply because of what the film is. An indie by a first-time director shot on a very tight budget and a very limited time frame. When you consider that, this really is an amazing end product. Having talked to the producers, I know there were scenes they wish they could have re-shot, dialogue they wish they could have smoothed out, things they wish they'd done differently. But unlike with major studio productions, you often only have one real shot at it. There's not room in the schedule to scrap a day of shooting and try it over again. There's not room in the budget to pay for the use of a location or the crew salaries to go back and do it over. You have to get it right the first time.
They mostly did, and if you look at it like that this is definitely an achievement. It's a story that's overall well told and beautiful to look at. Of course it's not a brand new story nobody's ever told before, but it is overall well done and I think this one has enough going for it (and enough different about it) to be more than worth watching. Give it a try and see for yourself. It won't be some cinematic epiphany or holy experience, but you may just be glad you did.