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My Name is A

Review by: 
Alyssa: Portrait of a Teen Killer
Release Date: 
Wildeye Releasing
Crime Drama
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Shane Ryan
Katie Marsh
Demi Baumann
Teona Dolnikova
Bottom Line: 

There are but two ways to create a film about a real life crime. One of them is to do it staunch and cold; documentary style, where the official police report is mixed with interviewing eyewitnesses who were actually there.  Actual security cam and news footage can be used to add flavor and provide glimpses of stark reality.  Another way to do this is to perform a feature length reenactment of the crime, hiring actors to play those directly involved in the events, and generally adhering to the facts of the tragedy.  Such a film usually ends with a list of ANIMAL HOUSE inspired “where are they now” montage of pictures (usually mugshots in this case) of those involved and their current whereabouts (more often than not serving life in prison), or at least a few snippets of screen text at the end to tell us the resolution of the real case and fuse our reality with the dramatization.  The first two are respectable ways to publicize and sensationalize a crime for public consumption as according to basic media ethics which give a proper credence to the victim(s).  There are no exceptions to this. Every film about a real life crime must be a documentary or dramatization, or else it simply fails to be about the crime anymore and immediately falls to the level of the most offensive trash, or the type of exploitative bullshit so awful, even I don’t want to review it. My NAME IS A is such a film, a film that seeks to detail a crime, the murder of a child only with none of the real life actual information regarding the crime, which might have made this film meaningful, if at least somehow justified. The death of a child is always a tragedy.  But this film makes it somehow even worse.  Let us take a look at the film “MY NAME IS A” as we discover for ourselves that the “A” must stand for anything but accuracy.

First the real story…in 2009 15 year old troubled teenager Alyssa Bustamante murdered her 9 year old neighbor Elizabeth Olten and buried her in a shallow grave, merely because “she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone”.  I knew of the case before I fired this up because I watch way too much ID television.  I was wondering how anyone could get 90 minutes of content out of a senseless thrill killing of a young girl, a crime that was itself so poorly planned and executed that it could be told, explained four times exhaustively in that amount of running time.  The answer of course, is lots and lots of creative license which is something that pisses me off in a true crime film adaption as it both bores the audience and dishonors the innocent victim.

While the real Alyssa Bustamante was a troubled loner, in this film she belongs to a gang of four fictitious girls each with severe mental disorders and abysmal home lives who eventually band together and kill Elizabeth. It’s bad enough to make to make a true crime adaptation to a film where the main list of characters involved in the crime itself is inflated 400% for the sake of dramatic license.  But in this case, they are portrayed as sympathetic characters, lost girls who are caught up in the destructive cycle of various stressors involving sexual abuse, emotional neglect, eating disorders and the usual assorted potluck of estrogen afflictions that could fill a week of programming on the Lifetime network.  Not to say that young teen boys can’t be subjected to the same abuses as well (my own home life was absolutely terrible growing up because my family was/ is awful) but even Lifetime network (the only channel I block) limits themselves to one teen problem per movie, which makes this portrayal of teens involved in every possible negative behavior at all times seem a little lurid; more than a little stupid, especially, when mentioned before, three out of the four girls in this movie never even actually existed.  Meanwhile and most curiously, there is very little screen time devoted to Elizabeth Olten during the course of this movie except for a brief scene in a diner. Yet her killers are treated as the true victims, not the real life little girl who was actually murdered.

There are moments of truth, however incidental. The real Alyssa Bustamante liked to cut herself and along with a group of friends liked to shock herself with an electric fence, just for the sake of doing so, posting the footage to YouTube. This film tried to capture these pointless moments of actual documented events but of course the usual C movie budget constraints prevented them from filming the fence scene using anything remotely resembling an actual electrified fence to film this pivotal scene of integral character development.  In addition, the girls are never caught during the entire film, when in real life Alyssa was soon apprehended for her crimes.  This not only makes this film even more pointless, stupid and inaccurate but somehow even more pitiful when one figures out the real reason for this was likely that there no way that the production values included enough money to hire some actors and outfit them as policemen and end this sad tale with even a grain of fulfillment or bring this story to a close with even the slightest semblance of justice whether cinematic or real. In addition, it takes them forever to depict the stabbing death of this little girl, and it is shown again and again; music video style, long after you the viewer have long figured out that it was a foregone conclusion and just wished to have done with it, and move on to the penalty phase of the story….which never comes.

There are hundreds of better films about youth gone wrong than this, some of which I am very fond of, even as their content deeply saddens me.   If you like stories inspired by real life crimes committed by dysfunctional teens I recommend THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (not the silly film with Elisa Cuthbert in it) or BULLY because they are both brutal, inspired by real events and told with horrible and exacting historical accuracy. And if you like dramatized (yet fictionalized) tales of teen excess, I recommend “KIDS” or “THIRTEEN”. These are fine films as well that appall even as they make a profound if not unpleasant social statement; an “after-school special” that scares parents too… This film however, was neither accurate enough to be a documentary, nor random enough to be a fictionalized work and the printing of the actual victims name on the movie box of a completely inaccurate story regarding her untimely demise was an affront to the sub-genre of the true crime story as well as to the basic sensitivity shown to a victims of violent crimes and their families usually afforded to them by basic journalistic decency if not actual Son of Sam laws.  While admittedly, the story of the senseless murder of a 9 year old girl could have never been beautiful…the story detailing her demise shouldn’t have been a meaningless, senseless event that simply shouldn’t have happened as well.

Special features include alternate versions of the film, deleted Scenes, alternate Scenes, music videos, Short films and Trailers.

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