There seems to be a new genre of film emerging. Call it American Indie Quirky. It includes anything with a small budget, driven by characters, and with just a pinch of the surreal or absurd. Directed by masters, the finished films distract and amuse the brain while sneaking in to touch the soul. The best films in this genre are made by directors like P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, and Sam Mendez.
R for drugs, sexuality, language, disturbing image
The second-tier films are good enough in their own way. Garden State had a certain appeal. Me and You and Everyone We Know was critically acclaimed. Igby Goes Down, Secretary, and many other round out the list.
But now we’re starting to see young filmmakers for whom “A.I.Q.” is just the style of the day. And if some of the more cynical critics are to be believed, audiences are being fooled into believing that this style is synonymous with quality.
Recent disappointments have been Junebug, as reviewed by Nick Reed (admittedly in the minority) here at Movie Habit, Me and You and Everyone We Know on Film Freak Central, and this film, Thumbsucker, as seen by yours truly.
The intriguing title is quickly explained and then set aside. The protagonist hasn’t given up his childhood security technique yet. It is a forced metaphor for his refusal to grow up emotionally.
It’s a great title. It screams “Look at me! I’m quirky!” Punched up with a protagonist who looks like Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore and blended with a couple of name-brand actors like Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn, and Benjamin Bratt, Thumbsucker could have producers and non-discriminating audiences falling all over themselves with hype and praise for the next big indie.
But in Thumbsucker, style trumps substance. Or rather, it would if it had its own style. It doesn’t. It adopts the A.I.Q. style as a sort of outer shell to dress up a conventional angsty coming-of-age drama.