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TRUE ADOLESCENTS (director/writer: Craig Johnson; cinematographer: Kat Westergaard; editor: Jennifer Lee; music: Peter Golub; cast: Mark Duplass (Sam Bryant), Bret Loehr (Oliver Mitchell), Carr Thompson (Jake), Linas Phillips (Slater), Davie-Blue (Jericha), Laura Kai Chen (Amy), Melissa Leo (Sharon Mitchell); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Thomas Woodrow; Flatiron Film; 2009)

First-time director Craig Johnson hits the ball out of the park in this perceptive slacker-humored but bleak coming-of-age story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time director Craig Johnson hits the ball out of the park in this perceptive slacker-humored but bleak coming-of-age story about an immature 34-year-old indie fringe rocker hitting rock bottom before he comes to grips with how far down he’s sunk.

Struggling irresponsible Seattle musician Sam (Mark Duplass) is homeless and has no regular gig when his sarcastic girlfriend Amy (Laura Kai Chen) kicks him out of her pad. Since no one else lets him crash, Sam must go to his compassionate divorced Aunt Sharon (Melissa Leo) and she lets him stay at her suburban place for free. When Sharon’s ex-hubby disappoints their 14-year-old son Oliver (Bret Loehr) by cancelling their camping trip to the Pacific Northwest, Sharon induces the unlikely camper and role model Sam to take his place and be the chaperone for Oliver and his conflicted nerdy friend Jake (Carr Thompson).

The beautiful outdoors (filmed on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and in the forests of the Cascades) lets the dark in forcing the aging smart-assrocker to act as if he were one of the adolescents and not their better, as he takes turns being repulsive, insecure and homophobic.The film’s pivotal scene has the unaware pitiful Sam tell the fragile boys a horror story about a rampage on the same beach where they have pitched their tents for the night. Then to show he’s a complete asshole, Sam dons a Halloween mask and enters the tent the boys are sharing to scare them and finds them in an experimental kiss. The incensed and embarrassed Oliver turns on Jake, who runs away. When he doesn’t return that night, Oliver and Sam search the woods for Jake the next day and the inexperienced outdoors-men get lost. There are physical dangers in the forest, but the film is more concerned with the resiliency of the three boys and how this eye-opening experience will be used to allow them to gain self-knowledge.

The mumblecore school indie is rich in small details about living in a modern-day pop culture world, love for slackers and gets assured performances from its talented cast. The wired performance by Duplass being realistic, smart and kick-ass. Even though there are no answers forthcoming, it feels right it entered such dark turf and that it asks tough questions of all three male leads about manhood.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”