Thursday, January 26, 2006


Growing up is hard.....seriously.

That's pretty much the message in Mike Mills solid directorial debut.

Thumbsucker is the coming of age story of Justin Cobb. He's a boy who seems to be a normal teenager, complete with parents who love him but can't relate, a crush on a girl who SEEMS like she's interested....or maybe not, a teacher who's demanding and yet sympathetic, and a orthodontist who's a wanna be new age guru. He's a pretty normal kid except for one slightly quirky nervous times of stress he likes to suck on his thumb.

What's great about Mike Mills' movie is that the character's are all solidly written, and realistically portrayed. It's a refreshing change of pace from the stock character's we often see in these coming of age movies. The parents , played by Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio in solid, grounded performances, are aloof, yet they are also very sympathetic. The truth is they care, but in REALITY they have no idea what they are doing. The refreshing thing is they are the first to admit they aren't perfect, and are just doing their best to raise children. The teacher, played by a solid Vince Vaughn, is awkwardly affable. He's the kind of teacher that's cool in a friend sort of way, but at the same time not totally irresponsible, and quick to discipline when things get out of hand.

Sort of like real life.

The whole movie is like that. It feels authentic and sensitive, not exploitive or cheesy. The problem is that in the current entertainment market the movie is not quirky enough to be memorably hilarious, or moving enough to be interestingly dramatic. As my friend Lons remarked to me the other day, it feels like a network television drama pilot. If the movie was made in the 80's, in the midst of the John Hughes era, I'm sure it would have been a quirky hit that would have offset nicely from the Pretty in Pink type movies of the day. But in the age of Napoleon Dynamite, Rushmore, and the t.v. cult hit Freaks and Geeks, the movie becomes unfortunately forgettable.

Not that there aren't memorable performances in the movie. Keanu Reeves gets some good laughs as the Orthodontist who can also hypnotize, Kelli Garner is solid, as an elusive girl that Justin has a crush on, and Lou Taylor Pucci anchors the film nicely in a demanding role, he even received merit at last year's Sundance film Festival.

The movie is a solid although unremarkable film....which means it's better than 75% percent of the Hollywood movies out there today.

It's now available on DVD.

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