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Comedy Movies - Thumbsucker

BUY Thumbsucker (dvd cover)
Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D?Onofrio
Keanu Reeves, Benjamin Bratt, Kelli Garner
Written and directed by Mike Mills
Sony Pictures Classics 2006
96 minutes

Thumbsucker is a teenage angst and everybody angst independent film with all the strengths and weaknesses of the indie film genre. This coming of age drama with a tinge of sad comedy to it features a great cast, great performances, and the usual artsy-fartsy stuff that some people really hate about small budget independent movies and, as is the case for Thumbsucker, detracts from the movie.

Lou Pucci is great as Justin, a high school senior who still sucks his thumb when feeling under pressure and he often feels under pressure. Hassled by his could have been a pro football player but only manages a sports store father (Vincent D'Onofrio of Law And Order Criminal Intent) about his thumb sucking habit, Justin allows his new age style dentist Keanu Reeves to hypnotize him out of his habit. Unfortunately, we all need a security blanket of some sort (the movie's point) and Justin has problems dealing with life without his crutch so he then tries Ritalin, which turns him into a debating team monster, and pot.

Thumbsucker follows all the independent movie rules. The parents are normal people who are trying to deal with life and their kids as best they can. Teachers are just as befuddled as the rest of us. The teenage girl the main character is in love with is an intelligent, well-spoken young woman with problems of her own, if you see someone go outside for a smoke it indicates a moment of personal crisis and an occasion for the main character to talk to this person in crisis, and, most important, what appeared to be a problem at the beginning is just a normal manifestation of the day to day challenges we all face. Thumbsucker is a movie about normal people dealing with normal problems.

At the end of Thumbsucker, which at some 96 minutes feels long, Justin learns the movie's lesson that we all have an addiction to something and it is this addiction that allows us to survive and get through life. The people in his life continue with their own addictions, Justin gets his wish of going to NYU (after lying on his application) and goes back to sucking his thumb.

Thumbsucker features solid performances from everybody on board and is obviously a labor of love. Lou Pucci won a few best actor awards in various film festivals, Thumbsucker was nominated as best film in those same festivals a few times, and director Mike Mills even won Best Director at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Unfortunately, the weak element in Thumbsucker is Mike Mills. He basically took the actors' labor of love and used it to show off how clever a director he can be by showing off his camera and artistic skills in each and every one of Justin's daydreams.

In the end, the solid and restrained performances from everyone on board get lost in a disjointed, sometimes hard to follow, low-energy coming of age movie.



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