Thumbsucker
THUMBSUCKER. 2005

Director: Mike Mills

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



The appealilng young actor Lou Taylor Pucci plays Justin, the titular Thumbsucker (2005), ashamed of his lingering addiction to this thumb. In his dreams, his father (Vincent D'Onofrio) shows affection even while the thumb is in his son's mouth. But in the waking world, the one person even more ashamed of the thumbsucking than Justin is his dad.

Though mostly about Justin's angsty teenage adventures, there's also a well-developed relationship between his dad & his mother (Tilda Swinton) that is just about as interesting as the main story.

Justin's hippy-dippy orthodontist (Keanu Reeves) can tell just by looking in the young man's mouth that he's back on the thumb, & uses hypnosis to make him think his thumb tastes like echinacea. Keanu's side-role is amusingly developed & he's is the funniest he's been in ages.

The fact is, thumbsucking isn't the oddest thing about Justin, who is a handsome misfit uncomfortable in the world as well as in his own skin. When he finally stops thumbsucking, he supplants the addiction with worse ones, starting with Ritalin which works on him like an overdose of uppers & he turns into a monstrous egotistical debate champion until the side-effects of speed-freakism make him paranoid. He goes cold turkey on the prescription drug "three molecules different from cocaine" & tries to calm himself by becoming a pothead.

It's not the plot but the characters that matter here, & everyone is captivating. Justin after going through every conceivable error common to the world of teenagers will eventually come full circle to realize one's thumb isn't the worst of all possible addictions.

By film's end it seems awfully likely that as he sets off for New York University, he's going to end up okay, & if he can accept himself as who he is, so will others. It's a lovely, quiet film that'll remind those who have forgotten how really difficult being a teenager can be.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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