Thumbsucker (2005) Poster

(2005)

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7/10
good movie after all
karljones17 August 2005
I was really expecting to not like Thumbsucker. I don't care for "teen angst" movies. Now having seen Thumbsucker, I'm really confused as to why Sony would market it in this genre (teen angst = teen $, I guess) and why its below the 5-star mark here at IMDb. It's really a remarkable movie. When it hits its stride, about 30 minutes in, it gets to places that few movies ever get to with respects to growing up, family dynamics, being a teen, being an adult, just generally being human.

When I saw Thumbsucker, the screening was followed up with Q&A with the director and a few of the actors. Apparently they were all pretty dedicated to their rehearsals and developing the character's relationships. Their hard work paid off with an exceptional movie.
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8/10
Your Thumb Doesn't Need You
ferguson-629 September 2005
Greetings again from the darkness. Very few things provide me the thrill of watching a movie with a great story, interesting characters, wonderful acting and professional direction. This is the case even when I realize that of all the people I know, 97 out of 100 will not see the film. Such is "Thumbsucker".

Director and co-writer Mike Mills presents the film version of Walter Kirn's novel and nails the issues we all face with relationships and life. So many teen angst movies provide us one dimensional adults or even one dimensional teens. This film shows the struggles we all face at every age and every stage in life. Catherine Hardwicke's "Thirteen" was a powerful movie focusing on girls. "Thumbsucker" is every bit as powerful, if not a bit softer in its approach.

Relative newcomer Lou Taylor Pucci is stunning and brilliant as Justin, the seventeen year old thumbsucker who, along with 98% of the others his age, just can't seem to figure out what its all about. His character turns out to be one of the lucky ones who finally determines that none of us really get it. That includes his friends, parents, teachers, orthodontist and celebrities.

The supporting actors are stellar and very well cast. Justin's parents are played well by the great Tilda Swinton (slightly underused here) and Vincent D'Onofrio. His hypnotist would-be guru orthodontist is hilariously played by Keanu Reeves and Benjamin Bratt is the TV celeb whom Justin's mom carries a torch for. Vince Vaughn flashes some real acting chops as Justin's Debate Team sponsor. This is not the typical punchline Vince that we have come to expect. A real standout is Kelli Garner as Rebecca, Justin's first crush. This role was originally going to Scarlett Johansson which would have been a mistake. Garner is so believable as the would be world saver if she could just understand why everyone acts the way they do. Looking forward to more of her work.

For a movie that tackles such tough subject matter, it does an amazing job of keeping the viewer from being depressed. There is actually hope in the message. The soundtrack was a bit of a distraction at times, but not enough to ruin any particular scene. Also, there is a story line about Ridlin and ADHD that would require a thesis to to describe my disgust. This is a film that deserves a bigger audience than it will reach. Sadly, too many will line up to see "Proof" which only impersonates an important film.
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8/10
Not your typical teenager
jotix1008 October 2005
"Thumbsucker", one of the most original movies playing locally, deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Mike Mills, its director, has adapted Walter Kirn's novel with honesty and integrity, giving the viewer a picture of a young man and his family at a difficult time in their lives and how they relate and cope with the situation. This is no typical teenage coming of age as interpreted by Hollywood.

The film is an intelligent account of Justin's life and what makes him act the way he does. His home life seems to be the root of all the problems and his addiction to suck his thumb is a way to escape reality because he finds comfort in doing so. Justin is clearly a teenager in turmoil because he doesn't fit in the large scheme of things.

"Thumbsucker" makes a valid point about how easy it is to prescribe drugs for what seems to be afflicting Justin: Attention Deficit Disorder. In fact, what those pills are doing are creating a false security blanket for the young man, who awakens in time to realize the drug he is taking a form of "speed".

The work by Lou Taylor Pucci in the film is amazing. As Justin he shows an intelligence and naturalness well beyond his years. Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio are seen as the confused parents. Keanu Reeves and Vince Vaughn make excellent appearances in roles that are different to what they usually play.

The film work because the good ensemble Mike Mills assembled for the movie.
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8/10
Your rite of passage is whatever you make it
PipAndSqueak2 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There was a time when, in the western world, there wasn't a word for what we now know as 'teenager'. I've no doubt everyone nevertheless experienced all those emotions and thought processes that we go through in making the transition from child to adult. Somehow just naming that time, (being a teenager), isn't enough now either for the young person themselves or anyone else dealing with them as they muddle through with their personal set of 'growing-up' issues. Thumbsucker is an absolute delight. It is down to earth, funny, insightful, moving, instructive and very engaging. This is as a result of some very fine acting of a very well crafted script from a clearly wonderful storyline. The only quibble I had was with the choice of music - for me, it mostly didn't add to or colour the action, rather the opposite. There was one exception and that was when we see Justin sitting in the orthodontists waiting room - oh yes, if you've ever been there, this is the music you'll hear where ever there is 'new age''spiritual' happy-clappy stuff on offer. Interesting that it is this, alongside the later drug treatment that provide the 'magic bullet' to stop the 'problem behaviour'. Happily, the film ends returning Justin's harmless (except to his teeth)self comforter to him. A masterful treatment of a common reality for, I suspect, more people than will be enticed to see it. The title 'Thumbsucker' seems entirely right, yet, I can see that it would put off a sizeable proportion of the potential audience. And that is a real crying shame.
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7/10
Great performances from lead and Reeves, funny movie with some good messages
Rich B26 August 2005
Keanu Reeves is so funny in this movie. He has some superb lines to deliver, and superbly done. I couldn't decide if there was some tongue in cheek writing going on while thinking about his previous roles in Point Break and Matrix, subtle sayings and nuances of the character just made me think of that and laugh. Anyway, that's the first thing that has to be said, he is superb in the movie as Dr. Perry Lyman, the transcendental dentist! A similar mention needs to be given for Benjamin Bratt as Matt Schraam, you'll know him when you see him, who plays a TV Cop entered into drug rehabilitation and is struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. His performance is extremely tongue in cheek...and indeed hand in...well. Let's say that he was willing to have much more than just the mickey taken out of him.

Vince Vaughn also surprised me with a really good performance as Mr. Geary, the teacher in charge of the debating team. From what I've seen of him before he really does back down his performance and play a strong role. I was impressed by his acting, and I really will have to re-evaluate my opinion of his talent after this movie.

Since I'm talking about the talent in the movie I'll keep going and give the biggest and most deserved mention to the lead, Lou Taylor Pucci as Justin Cobb, the teenager who is just starting out on his journey of really growing up, finding girls, himself and a new relationship with his parents, something we've all been through (unless you were finding boys!) around that age and we have all faced with equally different results. It's only in this role that I've ever seen him act, and he does so perfectly convincingly, he doesn't falter at all throughout the movie. On screen he's totally engaging, as many actors far older than him must aspire to, his face just draws your eyes to him and with a subtle and almost meek performance he commands the scenes he enters.

It's interesting when looking at the roles of the parents. For the most part of the movie I thought Vincent D'Onofrio was the weaker part and the lesser actor, however I ended up feeling that this was down to his role and that of the dysfunctional Father who is having severe problems coming to terms with his own life. Likewise I felt that Tilda Swinton was the stronger actor of the two, until the Father gained more scenes, then I felt she was much weaker and her storyline seemed relegated to merely showing us that another of the characters has their own problems, and to introduce us to Matt Schraam, the addicted to anything actor.

At the beginning of the movie we find that Jason has a problem, he sucks his thumb for comfort and the movie shows us in an easy and effective way what he actually feels and hopes for during these moments. The movie is about a few things, but really about the fact that we're all messed up in some way, we all have problems, and we all have to deal with them. It just makes it easier if we open up a little and deal with them together. Through the film it explores this through the idea of addiction, and how some people need to be addicted to something to get them through, from the extreme of the actor to the lead himself who starts out addicted to sucking his thumb.

Another issue brought out of this movie is the idea that drugs are the answer, and that if there is a problem with someone then they immediately should turn to a Doctor and attempt a cure. The idea that a miracle pill is the answer to everything is explored very well in the movie. It's clever actually that many of these issues are sneaked in through the back door (sorry Schraam!), in that there's a light and a humorous angle to many of the scenes yet we're dealing with a big and contentious issue. The moment where Jacob and the parents are sitting in with the Teachers discussing his symptoms and suddenly the answer is the magic pill for Attention Deficit Disorder. These symptoms being, as the mother describes, as vague as easily distracted, fidgeting, etc. In other words, a teenager! That scene is very strong, and at that moment when the Teachers leap you don't know whether to laugh or feel awkward and ashamed that society has turned so easily to drugs being the answer instead of trying to turn to each other, open up a little, and not being so wrapped up in yourselves.

It's filmed really well, and apart from the dream\comforting scenes and the representation of the effects of the ADD drug, you forget that you're watching a camera filming the movie. In fact I can't remember being aware of the shots themselves, which is an excellent thing and means that I turned to the movie and really got pulled in.

Although the ending is a little twee, and it is really a feel good movie, it's the journey that is the important part and what is said on the way. It has an interesting look at how families behave and keeps you wondering where everything is going to turn out. In particular it has a lot to say about addiction, drugs, and both teen and adult angst.

It's a funny movie, with Reeves getting the biggest laughs without a doubt, it's also very serious but given to you in a lighter tone. I'm really glad I went to see this and I was surprised to have liked it so much. It had a lot to say in an easy digestible style, much like the pill for ADD, I'd prescribe this to anyone in a heartbeat.
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10/10
beautiful, charming, touching, excellent.
Bluesnfire40121 September 2005
this movie was absolutely beautiful in so many ways. as an adolescent Justin, the main character, struggles with trying to stop sucking his thumb, the film creatively explores issues of identity, self-worth, achievement, family dynamics and so many other elements of life that are difficult to articulate. The film is fun and funny, but at the same time cleverly portrays the hard parts of growing up and communicates a profound and moving message. i was fortunate enough to see this movie BEFORE it was released in theaters with a Q and A portion after the film, with the director, Mike Mills. he was every bit as charming and clever as his film and his personality could be clearly seen in the film's character. I'd recommend this movie to anyone who appreciates a good laugh, a good story, or a touching picture of what it means to be human.
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8/10
Two thumbs up!
ratbaggy30 November 2005
"Thumbsucker" doesn't suck, at all! It's also not just another teen-angst flick. It is a funny, thoughtful, and enjoyable movie. I would give this two thumbs up! Although the movie revolves around Justin, a thoughtful, sensitive, teenager who happens to have a rather nasty habit of sucking his thumb, it also shows his relationship with his parents, brother, teachers, his peers and his dentist, who all undergo their own personal development during the course of the movie.

Justin and his brother call their parents by their first names, and in the case of the Cobbs, this doesn't seem to increase or decrease the level of respect or obedience teenagers have for their parents. Justin and his mother Audrey seem to be alike - they both have crushes: he, for a girl in his debating class, and she, for an actor on daytime TV.

"Thumbsucker" shows that teenagers with a lot of parental love and support can also end up feeling alienated anyway. The path to adulthood is often fraught with anguish, mostly self-inflicted. But sometimes, meeting a mean girl who'd break your heart in a second can do that too.

The casting is excellent - I hadn't checked the cast list before watching it, and was pleasantly surprised to find so many known and good actors in it. Keanu Reaves was a surprise, and a hoot to watch. Tilda Swinton is one cool lady, and I will certainly be looking out for her other movies.
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8/10
Austin Movie Show review
leilapostgrad9 October 2005
I sucked my thumb as a child. But unlike Lou Taylor Pucci's character in this film, I had quit sucking my thumb long before high school. Justin is a senior in high school, he's shy, awkward, insecure, and his self-esteem is not helped by the fact that he's a 17 year-old thumbsucker. At its core, Thumbsucker is an adorable teenage comedy about addictions, bad habits, and the emotional crutches we reply on whenever we feel pain. Thanks to his hippy, new-age orthodontist (Keanu Reeves), Justin is hypnotized into thinking his thumb tastes horrible, so he quits. But the end of one addiction merely marks the beginning of the next, and Justin soon convinces himself that his ADHD medication will change his life. But why are we so consumed with changing? Is thumb-sucking really such a bad habit after all? It's healthier than smoking crack. Thumbsucker is pure joy from beginning to end.
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9/10
A positive story of growing up
cinna66519 September 2005
I saw Thumbsucker yesterday at Helsinki Movie Festival and was really positively surprised. I was not expecting much from a teen movie, but this one really made its way to my heart.

The story is about a 17-year-old Justin who has problems with his self confidence, and that causes him to suck his thumb. His tough guy father (Vincent D'Onofrio) of course does not like this, which makes it even worse. His mother (Tilda Swinton) lives in dreams and does not really seem to care what's going on in her family. His weirdo dentist (Keanu Reeves) uses even hypnosis to help him to get rid of his thumbsucking...

The story is about growing up, and Lou Taylor Pucci as Justin delivers a brilliant job. But the main thing are the "sidekicks": Reeves the dentist and Benjamin Bratt as a totally weird drug addict actor and Vince Vaughn as Justin's teacher just do it, give some laughter to the otherwise serious story, and make this movie enjoyment.
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8/10
Well done is "Thumbsucker"
dee.reid24 January 2006
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.

8/10
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Interesting tale of a thumb sucking teenager. Not a comedy.
TxMike6 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
For some reason I went into viewing this movie thinking it was a silly comedy, but it isn't. Yes, there are genuinely funny parts, as there always are in real life, but this is mostly a drama about a high school boy Justin (Lou Pucci) who never tossed off the habit of sucking his thumb like some small children do. And it wasn't just an unconscious reflex while sleeping, he often sucked his thumb as a reassurance.

So the story is about his dad (Vincent D'Onofrio) and his Orthodontist (Keanu Reeves) trying to help this boy break the habit. Reeves goes so far as to hypnotize him, so that his thumb now had a bad taste. But the story turns when a professional at school meets with Justin and his parents and convinces the mother (Tilda Swinton) that Justin should be given medication to combat what they thought was a hyper activity disorder which made him under perform. Vince Vaughn plays a teacher and debate coach.

With the medication, Justin became a different person. No longer passive, he latched onto an opportunity to become a debate team member, he always prepared meticulously, was like a little bulldog, became a debate star. This also carried over to his home life, and he often used his skills to try to manipulate things at home.

SPOILERS FOLLOW. Justin so enjoyed how he felt with the medication, he began to rely on it. Although his grades were ordinary, he was accepted at NYU partly because he falsely claimed that he came from a disadvantaged home. But he finally realized that the meds were turning him into something he hated, so he threw them away. The movie ends with his flight to NY, he is dreaming of his career in broadcasting, when his words become garbled. He awakes to find he is sucking his thumb again, and a cute girl next to him seems to think it is charming. No longer feeling a stigma attached to his habit, he arrives in NYC and is running through the street, accepting himself without drugs.
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3/10
what happened?
brokentwilight195 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I rented this really wanting to enjoy this film, i like this genre,i think it had some strong actors,however i was disappointed it seemed forced it reminded me of "garden state" another painful film...

It was full of moments where justin would deliver a supposedly profound line, pause, as if to suddenly inspire you,he wasn't a bad actor he just seemed very misplaced.

I found rebecca to just be simply ridiculous she delivered her lines with the expressiveness of dried paint, she tried to be the quirky yet cute girl next door, then the dark broken stoner girl, roles few can pull off. How is it that this movie had so much acclaim? watching this movie simply made teenagers look like angsty,medicated,sex crazed fools. i felt the irony of keanu reeves character just over the top and to awkward. i feel as though this film had some potential. I also sensed and element of Imaginary Heroes,a movie that has stayed with me almost as a guide as to what this genre can truly but but rarely is.
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10/10
Thumbnail review of THUMBSUCKER
alanrearick22 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw the S.F. premiere of THUMBSUCKER last night; the screening was followed by a Q&A with director and writer (an adaptation of the novel by Walter Kirn) Mike Mills.

The film itself is great. I put the spoiler notice on this, not because there's any "whodunnit" to give away, but to say that all the characters and none of the characters "dunnit" in the usual sense. The plot or setup has already been discussed: A high school senior (Justin) still finds comfort and escape by sucking his thumb. This concerns his parents, teachers, etc. and by extension himself. He ends up on Ritalin (legalized speed IMHO) which starts out being beneficial, then later not so much so. He dabbles with pot- that's neither here nor there. Ends up being accepted at NYU and goes off to college, sans any "crutches". Doesn't sound too exciting, does it? Well, it's not that exciting, but it sure is real. The acting is flawless by everyone involved, it's completely invisible. And especially by Lou (Taylor) Pucci. This guy is AMAZING. If he doesn't have a long successful career after this, something is seriously out of whack in the film-making universe. Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Keanu Reeves (who's very funny- his character could have easily been a total cliché- but he walks a fine line with it brilliantly), even Benjamin Bratt are excellent.

During the Q&A afterward, some of the questions posed were: "How did you get the rights to adapt the book?" - Mr. Mills response: "I called CAA and asked." "How long did it take to make?" He worked on it for 6 years. "How many guys auditioned for the title role?" There were about 200 tapes submitted, about 100 face-to-face interviews, and Lou Pucci was among one of the very last ones. He was nervous, didn't try to hide the fact, and it got him the part. (And you can see on screen how this honesty serves his character well.) "How did you get financing?" Rich real estate guy, who's financed other films before, came through with the cash in the eleventh hour. "How did you choose the music?" Mr. Mills originally was going to use music by his friend Elliot Smith for the whole thing (ala Cat Stevens' music in HAROLD AND MAUDE). Then Elliot Smith passed away (RIP). He caught a Polyphonic Spree concert, almost on a lark, was blown away, and made the decision to use them for the soundtrack. (Three Elliot Smith songs remain. The soundtrack is perfect for the film BTW.)

This is one of those films I wish there were more of. On the surface nothing happens really; no dead bodies, murders, political plots, explosions, alien encounters, supernatural apparitions, whiz-bang CGI etc.- yet barely beneath the surface, everything happens. And only because of the Q&A afterward, I'd be remiss if I didn't add: Mike Mills is a really cool guy. He's working on his next feature, and count me in to be among the first in line to see it- no matter what it is.
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1/10
Terrible...
Anyanwu19 February 2006
With all the big name talent in this film, I found myself snoozing. This is why film is so subjective, and why it concerns me as a writer that this project got made. I felt nothing for any of the characters, and I wasn't interested in where it was going. Bad things to create in a viewer.

What did Tilda Swinton see in this to help produce it? The quirky idea of a 17-year-old who sucks his thumb doesn't hold up over the course of a feature film. Even the "quirky" supporting players came off corny. Keanu Reeves channeling his "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" character as a dentist.

I respect that the filmmakers got this made, so maybe there's hope for other films with good stories to reach the light of day. Money back, please!
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1/10
Thanks for wasting an hour and half of my life
stocky10200012 September 2008
I have quite eclectic taste in movies and will give any genre a shot but I sure wish I bypassed this one. The story was so dull that I actually envied the main character in the scenes where he is in the dentist's chair because root canal surgery is preferable than viewing this film.

There is not a single character in the movie that seems real and its not the fault of the actors they were simply working such a terrible script that there was no hope of rescue.

Normally I would write quite an in depth review but this film does not warrant one and the only reason I wrote anything at all was to maybe save 1 or 2 other people enduring the hell on earth I have just endured.

Only one mans opinion of course but I am sure others have felt the same hope its of some use to someone.
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2/10
Keanu reeves should never teach us a life lesson
Herebutfortea9 August 2006
I understand that this movie strongly supports the truthful concept of social development and evolution through redefining one's self, be it with a group activity, or drugs. I will even go so far as to say that it strongly promotes a "what makes us different makes us special," which is ethically very well. However any shred of ethos that can be derived from this movie is instantly lost when faces with the overwhelming fact that the person telling us this is Keanu Reeves.

That being said, i know many will feel entitled to tell me that a lesson learned from anyone is still a lessoned learned, which is true, i suppose, but it is still keanu reeves, and he plays a chain smoking dentist The argument is further broken down into pathos and logos The pathos of this movie is most likely the strongest element, not because it is in anyway strong, but because the logos is poorly executed, there is no logic to this movie. Logically it doesn't make sense. The kid receives hypno-therapy from his dentist? He partakes in a semi-nude drunken orgy with his debate team from alcohol he receives from his teacher? i am sorry, that is just inane.

Finally the redeeming pathos, well not thats not true, the pathos is far from redeeming, but it is there, which should count for something. By the end of the movie you do feel as though the kids life has emotionally effected you, you feel for the kid and his family, but that is about it.

All in all this movie is a poor attempt to teach us a lesson you either learn in first grade, or never learn, and that is that people are different and what is "popular is decided by the populous."
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1/10
Thumbsucker
trac5008 February 2006
I wasted two hours of my life watching this movie. It felt like it was 4 hours long. I kept watching because it said on the box "rated R for sex and a shocking scene." Well guess what? There was neither. I know the critics liked this movie, and it had that independent film feel to it, but come on, it moved slow and there was no conflict or drama. Just a weird kid who who did weird things. (I would say more but I'm unclear on the spoiler guideline.) Maybe I'm just not smart enough to appreciate the movie on all it's levels. It just seemed boring to me. However, there are couple semi-funny moments, but not many.

I recommend passing up on this movie at the rental store.

Thanks
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1/10
Avoid at all cost
domu_003 November 2006
This movie was just terrible. It was a complete waste of time and money, and although I am a fan of Keanu Reaves and Vince, they really should have avoided this script.

I watched quite a while back, so can't really comment on the editing, etc - but the bitter after-taste still lingers and when I came across it here on IMDb, had to vent some latent frustration that had been pent up.

It's over-rated as a comedy, actually there's nothing remotely funny about it, and has no direction as a "coming-of-age" movie.

My advice : save yourself the hassle of returning to this page and commenting on how much this movie sucked.
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9/10
Warmly Funny Look at Adolescent and Family Crutches
noralee25 September 2005
"Thumbsucker" is a charming look at an adolescent boy and the constellation of friends and family around him. It has the humor of "Napoleon Dynamite" through the kind of original prism as "Me and You and Everyone We Know" and the clear-eyed look at families as "Imaginary Heroes."

With an ongoing refrain of "Did you ever really want to change?", the film takes both a humorous and almost "Flowers for Algernon" serious look at the current trend to label what might be normal, or just slightly unusual, childhood behaviors as a medicatable disorder, particularly labeling a kid ADD and giving him a pharmaceutical solution, and how it affects not just him but his family and others around him in unpredictable ways. Debut director/writer Michael Mills has the camera movements accent the debates, going slowly back and forth, emphasized by the song selections that swing from cheery Polyphonic Spree to depressing Elliott Smith, with a lot of silences in between. It is refreshing to see a film dealing with a kid with a different problem than most recent films, not grief nor dope nor abuse. The family is more functional than most portrayed, as they do genuinely try to reach out to each other and there is plenty of humor amidst the poignancy.

Noting that everyone has secrets that they will allow all kinds of misinterpretations in order not to reveal, the story goes further and explores other sources of a habit and solutions, from the spiritual to recreational drugs to sexual to see them all as crutches for avoiding maturity at whatever chronological age. The ironies are accented through funny dream sequences.

Lou Taylor Pucci of the soulful eyes is captivating as a warmly believable kid and puts in a really vulnerable performance through the roller coaster plot. While not as showy as Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Mysterious Skin," he should be remembered around award time for newcomer, break out performance of the year.

He is surrounded by top notch adult actors who revel in playing against or making fun of their usual types. Tilda Swinton is very maternal, but with a mysterious edge so that you can join her son in being wary of her. Vincent D'Onofrio captures an inarticulate ex-jock dad. Vince Vaughan is almost a caricature of the nerdy teacher who wants to be one of the guys with his students (though the depiction of the workings of his high school debate team is inaccurate, even if the author of the book the screenplay is adapted from does a cameo as a judge). Keanu Reeves is "The Matrix"s Neo as a cheerfully suburban orthodontist. Benjamin Bratt satirizes celebrity TV stars.

The longing for more than friends relationship with the out of reach girl is a bit conventional for such films but quite touching nevertheless. The character of the girl is more a real person with feelings and a trajectory of issues of her own, which is unusual in this genre.

While the Portland area setting was more exurban than typically suburban, there was a bit of laughter in the Times Square theater I saw the film in when New York City kept being quizzically bruited as an unreachable goal, with the image of Times Square as freedom. And everyone knows that college acceptance letters are the thick packet, not the thin envelope.
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2/10
just too boring
gina117716 December 2007
This movie was too boring to finish. I gave up hope for something to happen after about an hour, switching to something more fascinating (doing the laundry). Though I liked the figures and the setting I could not help wonder why I should be bothered with Valium on screen. Besides, the soundtrack fits in perfectly (not a compliment in this context). The only highlights: Vince Vaughn as a teacher and the adorable Tilda Swinton as a frustrated but at the same time optimistic mother and housewife. With only a few alterations this could have been an acceptable coming-of-age-story. But it ends up in neither being funny nor exciting nor challenging in any way. Finally, the thumb sucking wannabe-leitmotif just sucks.
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10/10
Thumbsucker is a brilliant coruscating film!
phaedra_pardue31 January 2005
Lou Pucci delivers an amazing performance that wins him best actor at Sundance in this coming-of-age story of a thumb sucker. The film is delicate and hardcore all at the same time, a masterpiece of cinematography. Mike Mills has made his mark directing his first feature film. Performances by the rest of the all-star cast are stellar. Keanu Reeves plays the new age orthodontist effortlessly, Tilda Swinton has the perfect combination of a needy woman with nerves of steel, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onfrio both play roles you wouldn't expect but nail them completely. Benjamin Bratt shows his range as a gorgeous hunk of a TV star with an addiction that takes him to the dark side (and hey, check out that love interest-the beautiful brunette) Highly recommended!!!
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9/10
Good story, great acting
mimsyama117 September 2005
"Thumbsucker" is very enjoyable tale of growing up, families, dreams, destiny and happiness. I hear of the film during the Sundance and Berlin film festivals and it lived up to the positive buzz.

All of the performance are fantastic. Lou Pucci is someone to watch in the future, along with Kelli Garner. Tilda is such a moving performer and she gives her all as a mother questioning herself and her role as a parent.

Mike Mills is a first time movie director but he accurately captured the indecision and pathos of being a teenage. Justin is such a typical teen with so much potential that isn't realized. He had a trio of father figures, Keanu, Vince and Vincent, who try to guide him with results that are intense, hilarious and disastrous.
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3/10
I agree with zetes
saucyj19 February 2006
Very dull. Maybe you have to be familiar with "progressive" parenting and an "I'm OK, you're OK, we're not your parents, we're your pals" bland suburban childhood to get into this, I don't know. Which is fine to make a statement about, but I didn't BELIEVE the characters in the movie; it rang false. They could have done something more interesting with this. I didn't find any moments of poignancy, illumination or any sort of reason for me to be watching this. I watched "Me and You and Everyone We Know" after this, and that is more along the lines of something I like to see in an indie film and films in general- an alternative point of view, some subversive humor and symbolism you're not beaten over the head with. It isn't the ultimate masterpiece, but good, and I enjoyed it. This film is no "Donnie Darko," either. Just based upon its own merits, though, this film was a crashing bore and waste of my time.
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7/10
"Thumbsucker" plays around with all the indie habits
Movie_Muse_Reviews11 January 2008
It might seem strange at first to say independent film has become mildly formulaic, but it's slightly true. The salvation, however, comes in the form of originality. "Thumbsucker" has a lot of both and the result is a satisfying but not overly empowering movie.

"Thumbsucker" pulls together a cast that is no doubt impressive. There's everyone from mainstream actors like Vince Vaughn and Keanu Reeves to not as marquee but respected talents like Tilda Swinton and Benjamin Bratt. Most of the characters are very original and interesting which seems to either result in great success or a lapse in identification with the story. For example, the father, played by Vincent D'Onfrio seems to have a little to no parenting skills and while it makes an interesting character, it's a bit discomforting to be at peace with a character like that actually possibly existing.

The biggest Indie flaw is that there seems to be no thematic direction in the film. The ideas in the film are broad and precisely what the writer and even director are commenting on is too hard to pinpoint and the story unfolds. There is the thumbsucking habit, but there is also drug issues, fidelity, etc. It's not that there is no message, it simply takes more work to decode--the plot does not suggest to the viewer what things should be considered thematically. It takes some serious thinking to link all the many happenings in the film together.

There are some really great moments and characters going on in "Thumbsucker," but as a whole there doesn't seem to be a specific motion to the film and it loses some of the charm that many family-centered indies often provide.
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9/10
First Rate Film To Which Everyone Can Relate
kevinspaceysgrl9 October 2005
Thumbsucker is officially one of my favorite films of all time. One word to describe this film - ENGAGING. I was hopelessly hooked from the very first scene. Charming, funny, intense and, at times, hyper-real, you can't help but become part of the mixed-up world that Mike Mills has created for us. The dialog was fresh and truthful, the cast a well-oiled machine. But the star of the movie really took my breath away.

Lou Taylor Pucci, with his penetrating eyes, cherry-red lips and strong jaw, is so handsome that he is is almost beautiful. His soulful portrayal of Justin, a regular kid with a bad habit, sucks you in so completely that you feel yourself in his life, experiencing every hurt, your heart breaking for him. At times you also wish you could smack Justin and scream for him to just wake up and realize that he alone is the one in control of his life.

But that's the whole point of this film in my eyes. Taking that painful journey of realization, learning that we are all flawed beings and that life is simply what you make of it, is a hard road to travel. But, surely, it is a trip worth taking.
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