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September 02, 2011

Movies You Missed 2: True Adolescents

Sam-pole-f A young woman buys a cheap video camera to record the progress of the storm forecast to hit her town. What she ends up filming is far more than she bargained for — hours of crouching in an attic with her husband, neighbors and dogs as water rises around them.

I thought of this movie most people probably missed, Trouble the Water  from 2008, last Sunday.

That storm was Katrina, and the woman with the camera, Kim Rivers Roberts, survived, along with her family, to give her terrifying footage to two documentary filmmakers, who then followed Roberts as she returned to her wrecked home.

Last Saturday, I wrapped up my "assigned" Seven Days-related movie watching for the week, thinking power might go out on Sunday. Little did I know I would spend large parts of that day watching videos on YouTube that were almost as harrowing as what Roberts' camera captured. I saw our rivers ravage southern Vermont, and then worried about the fate of establishments like the Savoy Theater as floods tore through central Vermont, too.

Back before Irene rearranged our landscape and our priorities, I was looking forward to reviewing a movie I missed, new on DVD this week, called True Adolescents. Aside from some superb footage of surf pounding the Washington state coastline, and a reminder that Converse All-Stars are not an adequate substitute for hiking boots, it has nothing to do with the powers and terrors of Mother Nature. Still, here's my review.

Why You Missed It:

I'm not sure. In its tone, its humor and even its faults, True Adolescents reminded me of Cyrus, a comedy that had modest national success and played at the Palace 9 last year. In fact, Mark Duplass (pictured), who directed Cyrus, stars in True Adolescents. I'm guessing that he and Craig Johnson, who directed this one, go way back in the so-called "mumblecore" movement.

So why did this one never reach theaters? Again, it stars Mark Duplass. He doesn't have the name recognition of Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly or Marisa Tomei, who headlined Cyrus.

Also, the title? Too literal.

What You Missed:

True Adolescents has a premise commercial enough for an Adam Sandler movie. Duplass plays Sam, a thirtysomething, unemployed dude still hoping to make it big with his indie-rock band, The Effort. When his girlfriend dumps him and throws him out of her apartment, he crashes in the suburbs with his aunt, a single mom (Melissa Leo). She needs someone to take her 14-year-old son, Ollie (Bret Loehr), on a promised camping trip after his dad cancels. So Sam finds himself chaperoning Ollie and his skittish, sexually ambiguous friend, Jake (Carr Thompson), into the wilderness.

One overgrown teen who desperately needs to act his age, two actual teens, one big forest. In a Sandler movie, "hilarious" misadventures would ensue. Since this is an indie film, we're talking a few laughs and low-key character development. Like Cyrus, True Adolescents is about cross-generational male bonding on the basis of shared immaturity. But there's never any doubt that Sam will eventually rise to the challenge of protecting the kids.

Should You Keep Missing It?

Not if you enjoy mocking the kind of hipster who insists that everyone enjoy his kind of music (and no other) and wears skinny jeans on a camping trip. Duplass nails this type to the wall, but he's not quite a caricature. The kid actors are just as good; they have a plausible adolescent power dynamic going.

In the end, punches are pulled; the screenplay toys with certain issues and doesn't resolve them, and the movie goes flat. (Cyrus did, too.) But at its best, it's insightful — and funny. The scenes proving Sam's postulate that one should never trust hippies to help one find one's way in the woods are especially choice.

Verdict: In the hippie-vs.-hipster wilderness survival contest, no one wins. But, in the world of straight-to-DVD comedies, True Adolescents stands out as one that's actually worth watching.

Other New DVD Releases You May Have Missed: 

  • In a Better World: A Danish director explores the roots of violence.
  • The Perfect Host: David Hyde Pierce has an unexpected dinner guest.
  • Wrecked: Adrien Brody wakes from a car crash with amnesia.

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