Pretty Baby (1978)
As a character study of a young prostitute's daughter growing up in a New Orleans whorehouse in the 1910s, Louis Malle's Pretty Baby is observant and atmospheric. Screenwriter Polly Platt lets her female characters be products of their time, and Malle follows them around without prejudice. Unfortunately, the film is severely hampered by the underdeveloped and awkwardly played Bellocq character whose actions (or lack thereof) never seem motivated. Keith Carradine has the appearance of a dandy photographer from the early 20th century, but he looks very uncomfortable in all his scenes with young Brooke Shields, and the result is a cold, unaccomplished performance. Every time his character gets to yell at her, Carradine does it almost with a sigh of relief. There's also a stark contrast in the artistic quality of the film's first and second half. While Malle creates a fluid dynamic during the opening, the more plot-based second part becomes stodgy and confined. It's not all to do with Carradine and the Bellocq character, but not far from it. 12-year-old Shields is impressive in a challenging part.