True Adolescents

(movie poster)
Poster by DC Comics artist Cliff Chiang

True Adolescents ©2009 Furnace Films; exec. producers, Gill Holland and Emanuel Michael; producer, Thomas Woodrow; co-producers, Jennifer Lee (editor), Stu Pollard and Laurie Hicks; written and directed by Craig Johnson (feature debut); music supervisor, Sandy Wilson (No Country For Old Men).

This movie finely captures a contrast between true and prolonged adolescence, where both are forced to face adulthood.  Sam Bryant (Mark Duplass, The League, Zero Dark Thirty), the 34-year-old “man,” in a band, has yet to emotionally act his age.

Looking at himself in the mirror, he is losing touch with the person he wanted to be.  And it would be a relatable position: growing up is hard.  And damn near impossible without a father figure.  Or unemployed without a place of stay.  Sam, to his aunt via phone: Hi, it’s you’re favorite nephew

After his aunt Sharon Mitchell (Academy Award® winner Melissa Leo, The Fighter) accepts his temporary stay, she enlists him to take her step-son, Oliver (Bret Loehr), and Oliver’s friend, Jake (Carr Thompson) on a camping trip.  Reluctant at first, he accepts… with an undersupply of responsible thought and equipment.

Who needs First Aid?  We have everything we need already in my car.  Flash lights?  He has a lighter… (He smokes.)  Hiking sounds boring, they say.  I know, let’s get some fireworks!

And fireworks his life certainly isn’t.  Sam would be the struggling Seattle musician that would make a purchase promise on taste in music, and fail at his own making of music.

At the motel, we’re presented with an example of true adolescence: the kids opt out of a card game with Sam to see and meet two girls (including Emma Dumont, Bunheads) at the motel hot tub.  In an attempt to get their attention, Sam joins the four.  All four then move into the pool and eventually make out, while Sam is alone, having just been dumped and kicked out by his girlfriend.

Unprepared, with a hangover on the big day, needless to say, things don’t go so well on the trip.  No one dies, but the overnight of carrying a kid with a twisted ankle after getting lost ought to get Sam to grow up, at least a little.  And the two “hippie assholes” that couldn’t be sure of… well, anything… looked after Jake after all.

While Leo did Yoga between takes, Duplass had to improvise a lot.  And boy does he make it difficult for the other actors to keep from laughing.  In one of the outtakes, for the scene where he confronts the two teens, for looking at porn, “Sam” includes, in the less serious take, dolphins & donkeys on “what to avoid.”

While not as elaborate or dynamic as Safety Not Guaranteed, this “acerbic” movie is still worth watching, if not to just watch fourteen-year-olds learn to socialize without much dialogue in a pool, or a guy carry one of them while using sparklers to find the way down a path only minutes away from the tent site—that is, if he knew where he was.  Grade: B.

The soundtrack includes The Black Keys, Band of Horses and Devendra Banhart.

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