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A chain-smoking, beer-sloshing grandmother (Amy Madigan) is forced to attend to her environmentally attuned granddaughter (Perla Haney-Jardine) after the 13-year-old is abandoned by her selfish mother (Marin Ireland). Mom has it inside her meth-baked head that she's destined to find fame as a Hollywood makeup artist to the stars.

Lauduree (Haney-Jardine) must have skipped a few generations. The kid is more concerned with losing the 6-month's worth of data on a backyard carbon sequestration project than she is finding shelter with granny. Alone, in her tin shanty, Lauduree's passion for science becomes her family, filling her days as well as the many emotional holes left by a negligent mother and a dad whose only trace is a Kodak slide dated 1981.

If it sounds like another mothers and daughters bonding picture that somehow leapfrogged past the networks into theatrical release, that's partially because it is. How many times has a young outcast prevented her even nerdier male classmate from catching a beating from the class bully? Movie parents never get birthday gifts right, but writer, director Jenny Deller takes delight in knowing (and showing) that a budding wilderness preservationist has as much use for the stuffed banana her grandma's beau presents her with as Captain Hook does a volley ball.

Nature footage, particularly the type guaranteed to ensure a booking on The Discovery Channel, is kept to a minimum. Instead of eating up 5 minutes worth of screen time with a musical montage showing Lauduree frolicking with woodland pals, Deller distills it down to one striking tight shot of the child giving an ant a finger ride up the side of its hill.

Nor is it ever inconvenienced by finger-wagging or environmental lectures. Whatever ecologically correct themes Deller wants to impart are quickly dispensed with during a brief classroom sequence, with great comic charm, by Lili Taylor.

Perla Haney-Jardine is one to watch. The gifted juvenile delivers a delicate, natural, always in the moment performance that stays with you long after the audience has filed out of the theatre.

Normally my main gripe about profanity in movies is there wasn't enough. Future Weather is playing unrated. There's no question that Lauduree is slightly unbalanced, and a brief flurry of "fucks" she lets fly after plans go wrong rings false. It's also the only thing preventing me from suggesting that this week you bring the entire family to the Digital Gym.

Reader Rating: Three Stars

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