True Adolescents

B+

True Adolescents

The responsibility-impaired hipsters of mumblecore bear a distinct spiritual kinship to the equally irresponsible protagonists of ’80s snobs-vs.-slobs comedies; they’re just exponentially more likely to be in shitty indie-rock bands, read Pitchfork, or start ’zines. In the winning 2009 comedy-drama True Adolescents, star Mark Duplass splits the difference between ’80s slob-vs.-snobs comedy and indie-film earnestness by channeling his inner Bill Murray for a coming-of-age comedy-drama that suggests a surprisingly palatable mumblecore Meatballs. As on the perpetually underachieving FX show The League, Duplass isn’t afraid to go big and goofy for laughs, even if that means sacrificing the low-key naturalism that’s mumblecore’s stock in trade.

In an inspired lead performance, Duplass stars as a broke, aimless musician who moves in with his aunt (Melissa Leo) after getting kicked out of his apartment by a girlfriend who has run out of patience with him and his go-nowhere would-be career. When Leo’s ex-husband begs off taking their 14-year-old son (Bret Loehr) and his son’s awkward friend (Carr Thompson) on a camping expedition, the shiftless Duplass is pressed into service as an unlikely babysitter/guide/parental figure.

As the title suggests, adolescence here is less an age-range or developmental stage than a state of mind Duplass is still stuck in, deep into his mid-30s. True Adolescents follows Duplass and his young charges as they get lost in the woods and the boys wrestle with some of the more complicated, confusing elements of their burgeoning sexuality. True Adolescents traces a familiar coming-of-age arc from naïveté or willful obliviousness to hard-won wisdom with humor and sensitivity. The film breezes by largely on Duplass’ charm; he retains sympathy even when behaving like a jackass. In spite of his agreeably rambunctiousness performance, True Adolescents ultimately emerges as a bittersweet yet funny look at the pitfalls and joys of growing up and finding yourself at any age.  

Key features: Two commentary tracks, one with writer-director Craig Johnson, producer Thomas Woodrow, and editor Jennifer Lee, and other with Duplass. Also included are deleted scenes (with commentary) and a disposable behind-the-scenes featurette.

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