Movie Number 123
TitleTrue Adolescents (2011)
Running Time– 89 minutes (“Not Rated”)
Director– Craig Johnson
Writer– Craig Johnson
Starring– Mark Duplass, Bret Loehr, Carr Thompson, and Melissa Leo

(Originally an IP Movies Review)

There’s nothing new about coming of age stories, but when these tried and true tales are told through the lens that True Adolescents is told, they become fresh and exciting to watch. Writer and director Craig Johnson nails his rookie effort thanks to eclectic filming locations, an incredible cast, and an unpredictable story that takes more chances than most in the genre. Johnson has something to say about growing up, and the audience listens thanks to his ability to craft an engaging and humorous script.

Sam (Mark Duplass) is a 34-year-old musician with no job or money, and is, by most accounts, a total failure. When his girlfriend kicks him out, he is forced to go live with his Aunt Sharon (Melissa Leo) and her son, Oliver (Bret Loehr). Oliver’s estranged father cancels a camping trip with Oliver and his friend Jake (Carr Thompson) at the last minute, and Sharon asks Sam to the boys instead. Sam reluctantly agrees, and the unlikely trio sets off to the Pacific Northwest, where all three will begin to realize what is means to “grow up”.

Mark Duplass leads a stellar cast that is made up of only four main actors. He is the most charismatic loser I’ve seen in a while, and is incredibly likable. He is working with a great script, of course, but that allows his natural talent to shine through. His chemistry with the two younger actors, and Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, is excellent. Even though his world seems to be crashing around him, Sam has a sense of “live for today” that is both naïve, heartwarming, and identifiable. Duplass simply shines.

His two younger counterparts – Bret Loehr and Carr Thompson – are just as fun to watch. They both look like veterans in their coming-of-age roles. Though Melissa Leo is on-screen much less than the other three, her presence shines, and she is stellar as the single mom. In a film that focuses on character, it’s essential to find actors that can take small moments and make them the most memorable, and that’s just what True Adolescents does. The acting is stellar.

What’s great about True Adolescents is that the viewer is never able to guess where the movie is going. There are moments where it could’ve turned into a horror film, a romantic comedy, or an action film. It’s this unpredictability, and the fact that the movie pulls no punches, that makes True Adolescents stand out over other pieces in this genre, and why it comes highly recommended.