V. and I went to see Thumbsucker this weekend. Here's his review.
Clearly, the real sucking here is not related to thumbs but to the possibility of the studio pulling Thumbsucker from national distribution. They simply aren't supporting it in any meaningful way and that makes the Baby Jesus sad. Everyone in the film is quite good.
Tilda Swinton, though cast in a supporting role, is clearly the star. Her still and quiet fragility lifts even the most stilted of scenes (of which there are several). Languid and pale, she drew me in again and again so that I might be reminded that I am not alone in what it is to be so horribly, painfully... deservedly human. Vince Vaughn is at his most understated in years as a subtly vain teacher of juvenile forensics who just so happens to have mascara in his bag (you know, just in case one of his female charges needs a little help bringing out her eyes before the regionals). Vincent D'Onofrio plays an adequate jock father who turns in a journeyman scene when he suggests to his stoned son that it could just be possible to turn one's back on one's dream for the love of a woman (Swinton) who probably doesn't deserve it as she has no real dream of her own beyond that of the arms of cocaine snorting television star, Benjamin Bratt, about whom I will stop before I commit to words something terribly mean. The scene would have been all the more poignant had I not seen it eighty-seven times before. The character of the younger brother (Chase Offerle) existed solely to deliver lines I had also heard eighty-seven times. Pre-teen characters belong in after-school specials. I certainly don't want to hear
common slang terms for female reproductive organs coming out of their mouths.
The kid who sucks his thumb is played sweetly by Lou Taylor Pucci. I have it on good authority that he'll have a big career. He gets fucked over in the same repetative way all sweet sensitive boys and girls get fucked over until he finally finds his own worth. I only wish I had found that worth at 17. I went to NYC, too, though I sure wasn't bounding across Times Square. I was in Times Square, but it was different then. It just was. No one bounded, but it was the 80's and, therefore, a far more surly time.
That said, I found the kid's hair to be incredibly annoying. Grow it to your shoulders or cut it off. The movies are magic and I believe they can spare me from having to watch kids whose hair makes them look like bums.
There is a scene in which our hero is drunk in a hotel room with three or four teenage girls who suddenly strip to their underwear and attempt to transmit static electricity from one breast to another. (Ummmm.... huh?)
Look. I was a complete dork in high school like this kid. I was in a club that took trips. We all stayed in a cabin with no adult supervision.
It never happened. It never happens. It never will happen. This sort of thing just doesn't happen. Did I say never? Good.
If the movies would simply stop suggesting that one dork with bad hair can have four teenaged girls in their Hanes Herways hopping up and down on hotel beds, charged like Tesla coils of nubile need, well, teenaged boys wouldn't have such dumb expectations and teenaged girls would have a fighting chance at getting through at least three dates before a trembling hand is unceremoniously shoved down the front of their jeans.
Oh. Keanu Reeves is in this movie. He is cast as Perry, the kid's new age orthodontist. I'm rather unsurprised that he was sought out by the casting director as I am at a loss as to just who else would be able to wear the smock and channel the power animal of a dopey neo-hippy orthodontist. As he disappeared from his last screen appearance, I was left with one thought:
This is what happened to Ted "Theodore" Logan after his dream died.
The power animal really should have been a wild stallion. In certain movies, such beasts begin with great hope. In real life, wild stallions often meet a bad end. I could be wrong. After all, I read metaphors in alphabet soup.
That said, he was rather good in Thumbsucker. The film could have used another three or four minutes of him with the kid who sucks his thumb. Keanu is good when cast as a thoughtful, earnest and somewhat troubled man. You just can't sell him to me as a hacker or savior of humanity (Constantine doesn't factor into that last statement as his character was not really altruistic). Please keep in mind that I'm the guy who used to quip at parties: "I find it so amusing that they keep making movies in which Keanu Reeves is wanted for his mind." I understand, now, that he is bright. This, though, was the early 90's or so. The Johnny Mnemonic years. The early Matrix years. I was and still am passionately apathetic about both. I don't have to be a fan to know when he is good, though.
I appreciate him as a man who lives for his art, and that negates any thing I or any of us think about him. Everyone could forget him and he'd still do what he loves to do. I'm trying to assume that into my being as something not unlike an object lesson in living. Most importantly, I do thank him for being the sort of person who could, unknowingly, reach out beyond the screen and change a woman's view of her own heart and by extension, set her on a path that brought her to a place where she could accept and love a heart that is often too heavy and mad to hold.
Keanu's role as Perry the orthodontist was pivotal to the film. While the relationship between the sucking of thumbs and the straightening of teeth is clear, I'm afraid the extension of the orthodontic metaphor will be lost on many movie-goers. Each character's life is painfully adjusted. Some simply don't accept the gift and return to their own form of emotional thumbsucking, slowly rendering their corrected souls crooked, once again.