Suck My Thumb. But Look At Me When You Do It. And Watch Your Teeth.
Goddammit, I’m sick of this. This movie cost me ten dollars, and all I saw was a bunch of neurotic quirks brought to boring life like late-period Woody Allen. When, exactly, did ‘quirky’ become the new black in Hollywood? And if it is, then what’s the new ‘shut the fuck up, I don’t need to see another movie about a new-age dentist, or a hitman who recites Bible verses, or a crime lord obsessed with dildos’? I recognize that it’s tough to get a script made in L.A., especially if the studio execs think that it’s been seen before. But the answer to that particular problem is not writing something that’s fresh and new only because it couldn’t possibly exist. It seems every neophyte writer read the same damn article in June’s Scriptwriting Basics about tailoring roles to catch a star’s attention, but if the attention of the star you crave can only be caught via shiny colours or characters with quaint but strange hobbies like beekeeping or model trains, then maybe they’re not the kind of person you’re going to want in your movie. They’re probably going to take up a lot of your time trying to get you to sit down and discuss Biblical parallels in Boondock Saints. Write a movie comprised entirely of roles like that, and you’ll end up with a film full of weird people I don’t care about.
Which is exactly what Thumbsucker is. Based upon the equally irritating novel by Walter Kirn, the film is about a 17 year old high school student who still sucks his thumb. This problem is dealt with aggressively by his sports store manager father, passively by his nurse mother, who is obsessed with a cheesy TV cop show star, and strangely by his orthodontist, who councils the young boy to find his spirit animal through hypnosis. Annoyed yet? Keanu Reeves plays the orthodontist, either deliberately poking fun at his surfer longhair image or too stoned to play against type, and newcomer Lou Taylor Pucci plays the thumbsucking loser. And loser he is. He goes from loser slacker to loser ritalin-nerd to loser pothead through the course of the movie, which isn’t so much a character arc as it is a degenerative slide into mental illness and drug dependency. And make no mistake, I consider marijuana abuse both of the above. Anyone who allows themselves to fall under the spell of the drug responsible for the entire Ween catalogue and the 60s output of Jack Nicholson is clearly unbalanced, and requires serious treatment and probably a bath. I suppose, if I were forced to analyze it, that Thumbsucker is about the use of metaphoric crutches as coping mechanisms. But, I don’t care enough about anyone in the movie to apply my left brain long enough to overcome my right brain screaming about how I could have learned the same lesson by watching the Native American hobos on my street corner throw up anti-freeze and saved myself the ten dollars.