DVD Review - True Adolescents

Mark Duplass is an actor that most people would know from his role on the FX series The League. The better part of the last decade has seen him as an independent filmmaker. He has been writing and directing small features, occasionally popping up in more major productions like Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller. True Adolescents has Duplass falling in between The League and Greenberg, character-wise and tone-wise, leaning more toward the latter.

Duplass stars as Sam, a 34-year-old lead of a rock band that has no audience. Literally, the band has a show and practically no one is there. This is not to say the band isn't any good, but Sam's girlfriend sees little potential or ambition on Sam's part. He in fact has no other job. His band isn't providing in the much of income, and he has no place to live.

Sam's sister, Sharon, played by Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, offers her place. She has a teenage son named Oliver, played by Bret Loehr. Oliver's father cancels a camping trip. Sharon suggests that Sam take Oliver on the trip instead. Sam reluctantly agrees. Oliver is also reluctant, but he and his friend, Jake, played by Carr Thompson, go along.

Obviously, writer-director Craig Johnson wants to explore the oft-explored character suffering from arrested development or the oft-explored character whose maturation has slowed not due to autism, retardation or brain damage. Again, it's all about the man child. The trend lately has been mostly twenty-somethings who still behave like teenagers. Here, Sam is in his thirties and still very much is a lazy teenager.

Having to take two real teenagers out into the woods and having to take care of them would seem to be the way to get Sam to grow up, especially since during the trip, Oliver's life is threatened. Nothing will make you an adult quicker than having to save another human from possible death. All of that is fine, but in the middle of this movie a bomb is dropped. The fallout of which was never really handled but instead swept under the rug when it perhaps shouldn't have been.

Sam learns a secret between Oliver and Jake. It's a secret that could potentially kill their friendship. It's an uneasy topic that's meant to unease Sam. His apprehension to deal with it is probably the point of his character, but Johnson spends so much time establishing this dynamic between the two teens and then just cuts if off.

I know it's supposed to be about Sam, but what he's going through becomes rapidly less important once we learn the secret between Oliver and Jake. It's an endurance test for Sam, and, Duplass is definitely a good actor who endures it well, but the film though sells itself short.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 mins.


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