Seeking Solutions in All the Wrong Places
Release Date: September 16, 2005
Starring: Lou Pucci, Keanu Reeves,
Vincent D'Onofrio, Tilda
Swinton, Kelli Garner,
Benjamin Bratt, and Vince
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 97 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Mike Mills
Executive Producer: Anne Carey, Ted Hope, Bob
Yari, and Cathy Schulman
Producer: Anthony Bregman and Bob
Writer: Mike Mills
Address Comments To:Michael Barker and Tom Bernard
Sony Pictures Classics
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Web Page: http://www.sonyclassics.com
Based on a novel by Walter Kirn, the story focuses on 17-year-old Justin Cobb, a quiet but moody teenager who still sucks his thumb. This habit worries his mother, irritates his father and threatens his schooling. One day, Justin's New Age orthodontist hypnotizes him to get rid of his thumbsucking habit. The habit goes away, but the New Age hypnosis makes Justin feel even more upset, and he storms out of his debate class.
Although his debate teacher is skeptical, the school counselor prescribes Ritalin for Justin. Suddenly, Justin is transformed into a super bright, energetic student who leads the debate team to victory after victory. The situation gets out of control (Ritalin, after all, is a form of speed, as Justin's wise younger brother finally tells him). Justin quits taking his pills and loses an important debating match. He then gets involved with Rebecca, a pretty classmate who got fed up with Justin's meek, moody and secretive demeanor when they were close friends and started hanging out with the pot-smoking crowd.
Eventually, Justin learns that Rebecca is no longer really interested in him. After experimenting with pot and sex, their relationship ends badly, but the breakup becomes a kind of epiphany for Justin. After several other inspiring epiphanies with his parents, his orthodontist and a drug addicted TV actor who's a patient at the drug clinic where his mom works, Justin finds his own direction. He also realizes that there are no easy answers. Or, as his orthodontist, who now seems to be a humanist philosopher, tells him, "The trick (to life) is living without any answers, I think."
THUMBSUCKER is frequently funny. For example, the fact that Justin gets heavy, unsolicited philosophical advice from someone who's really just a glorified dentist is hilarious. Young Lou Pucci gives an excellent performance as Justin. This character and his story draws the viewer in and doesn't let go. The viewer sympathizes with Justin's predicaments, even when laughing at his situation and even when Justin makes bad moral choices. The rest of the cast is also excellent. Keanu Reeves provides a scene-stealing cameo as Justin's orthodontist.
Some Christian and biblical guidance could have redeemed this movie, but, as it is, the worldview is eclectic and contains New Age, Romantic and humanist elements. The movie also has some politically correct, environmentalist content that is false and/or could lead to erroneous conclusions, especially if the viewer is gullible or if the viewer already has false, preconceived, leftist positions on social, political, economic, and environmental issues. The movie also contains strong foul language, a bloody late-night scene in a drug clinic, teenage drug and alcohol use, and teenage sexual content.
On the positive side, the movie pokes fun at New Age solutions and psychotherapy, especially the kind of counseling that forces psychosomatic drugs down children's gullets. There are also some extremely touching, uplifting scenes between Justin and his parents, despite the problems between them. This list of bad and good is not exhaustive. Basically, however, THUMBSUCKER hovers between an Extreme Caution (-2) and an Excessive (-3) MOVIEGUIDE® rating. So, to err on the side of caution, it receives an Excessive.
THUMBSUCKER features good performances from Keanu Reeves, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tilda Swinton, and Vince Vaughn. The movie is frequently funny. Young Lou Pucci gives an excellent performance as Justin. This character and his story draws the viewer in and doesn't let go. Despite some moral and uplifting moments, THUMBSUCKER contains a mixed pagan worldview with some strong foul language, a bloody medical procedure, teenage substance abuse, political correctness, and implied sexual immorality between two teenagers. Like the rest of the movie, the ending is mixed, with good points and bad points.