(director/writer: Owen Kline; cinematographer: Sean Price Williams/Hunter Zimny; editors: Erin DeWitt/Owen Kline; music: Sean O Hagan; cast: Daniel Zolghadri (Robert), Matthew Maher (Wallace), Miles Emanuel (Miles), Maria Dizzia (Jennifer), Josh Pais (Lewis), Michael Townsend Wright (Barry), Stephen Adly Guirgis (Mr. Katano), Marcia DeBonis (Cheryl), Cleveland Thomas Jr. (Steven), Louise Lasser (Linda, pharmacy lady), Ron Rifkin (Grandfather); Runtime:  86; MPAA Rating: R; producers:  Oscar Boyson, David Duque Estrada, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Ronald Bronstein; A24; 2022)

“Sexually dark freewheeling coming-of-age film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Owen Kline is the young actor who played a 12-year-old in the 2005 drama by Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale. He is the son of Kevin, who in his directorial debut skillfully helms this sexually dark freewheeling coming-of-age film. It follows along the lines of an R. Crumb comic.

Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) is a talented high-school graphic artist and cartoonist in Princeton, N.J., who emulates his challenging middle-aged art teacher Mr. Katano (Stephen Adly Guirgis), who poses nude for the kid in his failed bid to seduce him and advises him to not go to college and have his artistic ability ruined.

Robert gets in some minor trouble with the law and drops out of school. He lands in nearby Trenton, taking a filing job in the public defender’s  office run by Cheryl (Marcia DeBonis), where he sketches all the loser visitors and in his free time hangs out at the nearby comic book store. Robert upsets his straight comfy living middle-class parents (Maria Dizzia & Josh Pais) by not going to college and choosing to become a professional artist.

In Trenton, Robert rents a dumpy basement apartment with two older roommates from his creepy landlord (Michael Townsend Wright), and dreams of success as a comic book artist.

Among the losers he discovers in the DA’s office is Wallace (Matthew Maher), a client of Cheryl’s. The kid recognizes him as the color assistant for some of the comics he once loved. His attempt to help Wallace falls flat, as does his attempt to get the volatile comic book artist to teach him the craft.

It’s an offbeat story filmed in a conventional way. Robert’s best teenage comic book friend friend Miles (Miles Emanuel) gets dumped when Robert advances more than Miles as an artist.

The film is offbeat, competently made and entertaining. Owen seems to know much about comics, and that comes through in this weirdly funny comedy that’s not for everyone.