A young man, dealing with the death of his father, finds himself many misfits to bond and spend time with. Leading to him uncovering what has led him down this path we see him on.
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
When James (Kodi Smit-McPhee) was younger, his father died. This left a profound effect on him and it seems to have left him “socially maladjusted,” if you ask his mom. The truth is, though, it seems he just didn’t have people to relate to. Enter Harmon (Evan Ross) and Val (Isabelle Fuhrman). Harmon is a guy who randomly starts chatting up James on the bus, and Val is a girl who goes to the same clinic as James. All three form a bond which, at times, gets a little complicated, but with James needing someone his own age to bond and talk to, they couldn’t come in his life soon enough.
Something I’m slowly learning about watching Smit-McPhee movies is that he doesn’t do fast-paced journeys. His journeys, even when 80 some odd minutes, take their time in ways which can either work like A Birder’s Guide to Everything or be excruciating slow like Young Ones. As for this film, it is somewhere in the middle for with Smit-Mcphee being joined by Ross and Fuhrman, there is enough spark in the story to keep things interesting, but not enough to make this a nice movie to just watch 80+ minutes.
With that said, I have to say I enjoyed the build to James revealing why he is such a troubled young man, and I enjoyed the relationships he shared with Val, Harmon, and even Dr. Pembry (Danny DeVito). For while his relationship with Harmon seemed like it could only come from a Coming of Age type film, as you get settled into their relationship it is hard to not find the pairing likable. Something which can also be said about the relationship between Val and James. However, with them sharing similar father issues, and meeting at a clinic, there is almost a beautiful love story there which sadly, due to complications, we don’t see much of. Though it could very well be that they were more so supposed to bond and be platonic vs. be considered love interest.
Multiple times throughout the movie I lost interest. This is because, while Smit-McPhee has the perfect look for a teenager who has gone through something, unfortunately, Smit-McPhee’s “I’m just waiting for the grim reaper” means of performing does make him seem dead on screen sometimes. Something which could have been compensated by Ross or Fuhrman, but the film doesn’t build either character too well, or their relationship with James.
Take Val for example, as noted in the praise, it is hard to say whether she was supposed to become a love interest or not. For while they share a bond through going to Dr. Pembry’s, with one situation it seems the little they built up is destroyed like a child’s sand castle. Same goes with Harmon. He begins as a stranger, with parental issues like James, but what is Harmon but an escape? A random interest who James follows around since he seemingly has no friends, and is bored out of his mind.
Leaving Dr. Pembry who sadly isn’t like Ben Kingsley’s in The Wackness. For while DeVite plays Dr. Pembry as an eccentric, he isn’t the lovable kind at all. He, if anything, seems like someone donating his time to the clinic and hardly taking much focus at all. Making it when he stops asking questions and begins providing answers, it seems more so because he is sick of listening than really trying to engage James in conversation.
Overall: TV Viewing
I will never doubt Smit-McPhee’s abilities as an actor, but I will say that he needs strong supporting characters to shine. And while Val and Harmon are interesting characters, they aren’t developed, as individuals, or as friends of James, in such a way to make this film beyond decent. Hence the TV Viewing label for while the characters can be considered weird, and maybe even interesting, there is something lacking in James’ relationships which keeps the characters from really popping and making the film not seem like a drag.