Daisy Coleman and her friend Paige spent the night of January 7, 2012 drinking and goofing around as teenagers in small town Missouri (or small town anywhere) are prone to do. They snuck out of Daisy’s house to go party with a group of male teens from their high school where they were sexually assaulted. The crime was reported, but no one was ever convicted in Daisy’s assault case despite national online attention, via a combination of an alarmingly high burden of proof and sickening amount of privilege and flippancy towards the girls’ claims by local authorities. When her molesters were set free without as much as a slap on the wrist, the social media backlash calling Daisy a liar made the fourteen-year-old suicidal. It was an eerily similar situation to that of Audrie Pott, a Saratoga, California teen, who like Daisy was sexually assaulted by a group of teenagers, humiliated, and had the act captured in pictures and video. Daisy would ultimately survive; Audrie, would not.
The general intent of Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s appropriately incendiary call to believe female sexual assault victims within the documentary Audrie & Daisy hits home wonderfully, but the film around it could use a considerable amount of focus. Starting off by talking about Audrie’s case, Cohen and Shenk set up a film that doesn’t really materialize. When the focus shifts very briefly to the work of Delaney Henderson, another film is set up. Neither of these two threads are addressed again until the end.
The part that stings the most is the botching of Daisy’s case and the callousness and entitlement that small town politics can breed. Talking with Daisy, her family and friends, it’s clear that Coleman’s story should be a film unto itself. On the whole, Cohen and Shenk’s work is deeply sympathetic, empathetic, and rage inducing, making it a necessary work. It’s just a shame certain elements couldn’t be beefed up or trimmed.