out of Five
Running time: 96
Darkly comic coming of age drama with strong performances from its ensemble cast, although it does occasionally feel as if we’ve seen it all before.
Thumbsucker is the feature debut of writer-director Mike Mills, who adapted his own screenplay from the novel by Walter Kirn. The film received a warm reception from both critics and audiences when it played at the Edinburgh Film Festival earlier this year and it looks set to repeat that success now that it’s getting a theatrical release.
Lou Pucci stars as Justin Cobb, a 17 year old who has never stopped sucking his thumb. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, Justin suddenly starts excelling in school, much to the surprise of both his debate teacher, Mr Geary (Vince Vaughn) and his orthodontist guru, Perry (Keanu Reeves).
Meanwhile, Justin’s parents (Tilda Swinton and Vincent D’Onofrio) are having problems of their own, particularly when his mother becomes obsessed with TV heartthrob Matt Schram (Benjamin Bratt).
Pucci is superb in the lead role, even if his character isn’t always particularly likeable. He also has an extremely unusual face, which, in addition to bearing a strong resemblance to Tilda Swinton, allows him to carry off both deadpan comedy and serious moments with equal aplomb.
There’s also strong support from Swinton and D’Onofrio, while Vince Vaughn and Keanu Reeves conduct a little scene-stealing competition with their hilariously-written roles (Reeves just edges it).
There’s nothing in Thumbsucker that’s particularly new or original, particularly if you’ve seen Tadpole or Igby Goes Down, for example. However, Mills maintains an assured tone that confidently balances both comedy and drama throughout and he gets terrific performances from his actors.
In short, Thumbsucker might occasionally feel a little derivative, but it’s an enjoyable, darkly comic coming of age drama with superb performances from its ensemble cast. Recommended.