Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
A husband-and-wife team play detective, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, the happy duo helps others solve their existential issues, the kind that keep you up at night, wondering what it all means.
Justin is a teenager boy, who has an oral obsession with his thumb. His mother seems to be a normal housekeeper, but she has her own obsessions as well, like a crush on a TV-star. The only person who's aware of Justin's problem is his father, manager in a store, but none of his advices seem to be working for Justin. The kid is signed up in a debate workshop, but the thing isn't going well, because he has his mind in a pretty classmate and, of course, in his thumb, affecting all the rest of his classes. So, Justin is a loner kid in the school, who prefers to lock himself in the bathroom and suck his thumb. Justin's dentist, a mystical-hippie person, will try to help to overcome his thumb problem, through the hypnosis. But the school's psychologist will diagnose Justin with the Attention Deficit Disorder, and will prescribe him some drugs. Suddenly, Justin's problem with his thumb will disappear, becoming an hyperactive genius, winning several debate contests and the admiration from his... Written by
Justin is charged $3.20 to mail a Business Reply envelope which is clearly marked "Postage Will Be Paid By Addressee". However, it is possible he intends to send it Priority Mail, which would have cost $3.20 in the time period of the original novel. See more »
First, I'd like to point out that "Thumbsucker" is an unusual title for any piece of work, whether it's this film, or the novel by Walter Kirn that it is based. First-time director Mike Mills guides a cast of well-knowns through a decent script that peers into one teenager's coming of age and his battle with an unusual addiction: he sucks his thumb.
Yes, Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci) sucks his thumb. He's 17, in high school, trying to get into New York University, and sucks his thumb. His father Mike (Vincent D'Onofrio) clearly has issues with it while his mother Audrey (Tilda Swinton, also the film's producer) is a little more lenient (though she has the hots for T.V. actor Matt Schramm, played by Benjamin Bratt), and it just gives his younger brother Joel (Chase Offerle) greater incentive to insult him. Both parents like to be called by their first names as to not remind themselves of being old. If only more parents thought that way.
"Thumbsucker" isn't really a teen angst picture in the sense of something along the lines of "The Breakfast Club" (1985). No, it never really dives that deep, but it does contain some of those elements. The picture never looks beyond Justin's problematic habit that he just can't seem to shake as he rapidly approaches adulthood.
He sees his new-age hippie orthodontist Perry (Keanu Reeves), who suggests that Justin undergo hypnotherapy, and it works. A new leaf is turned over the for the young man as he joins the debate team and finds widespread success there, gets on the good side of his laid-back teacher Mr. Geary (Vince Vaughn) who also has some hair issues, and finds a little teen love with fellow classmate Rebecca (Kelli Garner).
But it's short-lived when Justin is also diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and is prescribed Ritalin(?) but goes cold turkey when he realizes he's addicted to it. After letting those go, Rebecca introduces him to the world of marijuana and borderline-kinky sex acts. But all of this leaves us and him wondering: Was there anything really wrong with him, since after all, thumb-sucking is unusual but in a world where there are many definitions of "normal," what is "normal?"
"Thumbsucker" is a pleasant and engaging comedy that guides us through the processes of definition of a perfect society. In essence really, Justin is the only down-to-earth character in the film, aside from his habit. I'm sure there are those of us with our own little pet-peeves that we don't let the world know about. I think that for Justin, who is played rather delicately and brightly by Lou Pucci, his habit brings him a sense of escape from his problems, much like an addiction.
But he falls right back into it when he has nothing left and all other options are exhausted. The movie's message is, I think, don't be afraid to be yourself, no matter how unusual your habits are. Don't get blinded by society's definition of normal and bizarre, and most importantly, just be yourself.
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