Film: The Poker House

The Poker House is a 2008 independent drama film, based on the true story of writer/director Lori Petty's childhood. Agnes, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a 14-year-old high school student. She gets straight A's, works two jobs and is a star basketball player. Her mother, Sarah, played by Selma Blair, is a prostitute who brings home different men every night and is regularly beaten by her pimp. Also in the family are two other girls, 12-year-old Bee and 8-year-old Cammie (Chloe Grace Moretz).

One of the producers is none other than Stephen J. Cannell (who previously worked with Petty on the 21 Jump Street spinoff Booker).

Provides examples of:

  • Arc Words:
    I race the sun home in the morning, and the moon up at night. Anything can happen, and anything does. There's just today. Then there's tonight.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    Mother God Lord Jesus fuckin Christ Almighty, somebody shut the door!
  • The Cutie: Agnes during her errands is friendly, outgoing, cheerful and well liked. Her attitude at home is another story...
  • Dawson Casting: Somewhat justified, given the subject matter, but 14-year-old Agnes is played by 18-year-old Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Direct-to-DVD: The movie got this treatment in the UK in 2015, under the title Behind Locked Doors.
  • Disappeared Dad: The girls' father was an abusive priest. The family moved across the country to escape him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A retroactive example. In her first movie, Jennifer Lawrence plays a girl in over her head in tough situations with no father, a somehow rendered useless mother, and one or more younger siblings to watch. Which is pretty much her role in both Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games.
  • Heroic BSOD: Agnes has one after being raped, when she is in the bathtub and her mom has just left. See also Kick the Dog.
  • Hope Spot: In the bathroom scene, despite the fact that every scene we see Sarah in, she is somehow tormenting her daughter, Agnes still reaches out to her pitifully. Sarah walks toward Agnes for just long enough the audience thinks it might become a Pet the Dog moment, then Sarah sprays some perfume and tells Agnes to go to the store. It simply goes downhill from there.
  • Karma Houdini: We never see anything bad actually happen to the pimp.
  • Kick the Dog: Daughter very distressed after being raped by your pimp? Is she reaching out to you, longing to be held? Better ignore her emotions completely and verbally abuse her some more. See Heroic BSOD.
    • A second example occurs shortly after, when the mother chooses the pimp over her daughter.
  • Mood Whiplash: Many examples. The most notable are:
    • After last seeing Agnes being abused a few scenes earlier, she goes to the newspaper where she works and jokes around with everyone there. Cut to Bee hiding in her room, barricading the door and practicing her saxophone.
    • Agnes goes home after her errands and scares Bee by climbing in the window and having a relatively lighthearted conversation. Cut to the party where Agnes is raped. It gets worse from there, until she goes to the basketball game and the tone shifts back to hopeful and excited when she thinks of all the people who love her. Back to depressing when she breaks down in the car following the game, then back to upbeat, singing in the car with her sisters. Mood Whiplash indeed.
  • Plucky Girl: The three daughters maintain remarkably positive attitudes, considering their environment.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    MOM. This motherFUCKER just raped me!
  • Rape as Drama: Agnes.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: The mother has a case of this with the pimp. Agnes herself with the pimp, to some extent. Until he rapes her.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Agnes' is long and varied. Her father abused her whole family, her mother seems to take a certain pleasure in belittling her, she is threatened at knife point, and raped by the pimp. You WILL want to give her a hug when she is in the bathtub. Made especially difficult to watch by Jennifer Lawrence's stunning performance.
  • The Unintelligible: The black man who spends the day with Cammie at Dolly's.