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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.52%
Worth A Look59.26%
Average: 7.41%
Pretty Bad: 7.41%
Total Crap: 7.41%

2 reviews, 15 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"More quirky Sundance comedy, but this one's good."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Nearly all of the angst in "Thumbsucker" is internal. It is not a film about how people relate to each other, but how they relate to themselves. Yet despite the introspection, it's an accessible movie, a colorful and warm coming-of-age story with rich characters. If it sometimes overdoes its indie-film quirkiness, it ultimately makes up for it with real depth and laugh-out-loud comedy.

The title character is Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci), 17 years old and uncomfortable with himself, as all teenagers are, but especially those who are different. Justin's difference is that he sucks his thumb when he is stressed. His strangely unsupportive father Mike (Vincent D'Onofrio) is annoyed by it. His mother, Audrey (Tilda Swinton), is more sympathetic but is preoccupied with her obsession with movie star Matt Schramm (Benjamin Bratt), who has just checked into the rehab facility where Audrey works. (Justin calls his parents by their first names, by the way, an example of the film's over-reaching quirkiness.)

The school psychologist diagnoses Justin with ADHD, and medication seems to help. He begins to excel in the debate club and reads "Moby Dick," a feat which few people even of normal attention spans are able to accomplish.

As Justin comes to terms with himself, we realize his thumbsucking is a metaphor for whatever makes us different, and that different is not necessarily bad. The medication reduces the thumbsucking, but it also reduces some of who Justin is.

He encounters a number of "different" people in his travels, including Vince Vaughn as the too-cool, eager-to-please debate coach (he buys booze for the kids when they're away at a tournament), and Keanu Reeves as a New Age dentist. Vaughn and Reeves are both very funny, with Keanu walking the line between being his usual bad-actor self and making fun of his usual bad-actor self.

Eventually Justin is confronted by his little brother Joel (Chase Offerle), who says, "You ever stop to think you're so busy being weird that I have to step up and be normal?" Indeed, so much of Justin's woe could be solved by accepting his thumbsucking tendencies, rather than fighting them. Would it really be so awful if he sucked his thumb for the rest of his life?

Lou Pucci gives one of the most likable, charismatic teen performances in recent memory. His Justin is earnest, smart and, most importantly, believable. Most of the film's comedy (written and directed by Mike Mills in his feature debut) stems from situations that are exaggerated, perhaps, but not stretched beyond credibility. Pucci plays it with heart and natural ability -- not unlike Aaron Stanford in "Tadpole," which was a similarly oddball coming-of-age story that played at Sundance a few years ago. I suspect Pucci will be one to watch in the next few years, and "Thumbsucker" is an auspicious start.

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originally posted: 03/30/05 16:32:02
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/01/10 User Name Conveys the indy-film stereotype so much, it's nausiating. 2 stars
6/14/07 Bitchflaps Glib, asinine showcase for the US indie kid fascination with small-town American gothic. 2 stars
9/11/06 jcjs awesome 5 stars
3/30/06 Indrid Cold I was prepared to hate the self-conscious "indieness" of it, but it ended up being OK. 3 stars
3/26/06 sulky I've a soft spot for films like this! Lovely performances from Pucci and Swinton. 5 stars
2/26/06 Phil M. Aficionado The cast all had to be on the same page for this film to work. Fortunately they were. 4 stars
11/27/05 kaz dream cast..made me think..and laugh.. 5 stars
11/05/05 jcjs gorgeous on every level, comic, sincere, real, fine acting, fun, to the point, real 5 stars
10/15/05 Mortis Thumbsucker the novel and Thumbsucker the movie are different yet excellent creatures 4 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Contrived, pretentious, over-rated; the great Tilda Swinton is its one redeeming feature! 1 stars
9/23/05 mike S seems an elaborate fraud by h-wood studio to manufacture hipster hit a la napoleon dynamite 3 stars
9/20/05 Jamie Great Performances including Kelli Garner! 5 stars
9/09/05 Ray Funny and light 4 stars
1/30/05 mojo disgusting, foul, offensive 1 stars
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  16-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jan-2006



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