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Thumbsucker (R)

Release Date: September 16th, 2005 (NYC) by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kelli Garner, Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn, Benjamin Bratt.
Directed by Mike Mills.

BASIC PREMISE: After shy 17 year-old Justin (Pucci) gives up sucking his thumb, he is diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and, after taking prescribed drugs, he suddenly becomes smarter and more confident.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Lou Pucci gives a very well-balanced performance as Justin, who goes from shy and insecure to very confident and outspoken. He looks just as bizarre as the plot is, especially with his very pale, ghost-like complexion. He is also very well cast because he resembles his mother (Swinton), who is a nurse in a secret affair with one of her patients (Vaughn). Justin doesn't get enough attention from his father, so he befriends his orthodontist (Reeves) who gives him very strange advice. His orthodontist inspires him to stop sucking his thumb in the first place. Reeves is perfectly typecast---he is funny, quirky, and a breath of fresh air unlike his roles in The Matrix. Another comic relief is Vince Vaughn as Justin's debate coach, but even he is typecast because there is a level of seriousness to his role. It is fun to watch how Justin's life changes after he loses his thumb-sucking habit. He becomes involved with a Rebecca (Garner), but loses her as his ego and success in the debate competition escalates. The cinematography is very impressive, with a few surreal, dream-like sequences that effectively show how unstable is Justin's mental state. Justin is not as funny and offbeat as Napoleon Dynamite is, but by the end of the film you end up liking him despite all of his flaws. Even the plot predictable and meandering at times, but the cast it is always lively and engaging thanks to a very talented cast, especially the young, surprisingly talented Lou Pucci.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Justin's orthodontist gives the most thought-provoking advice--he's certainly not a typical orthodontist. He tries to convince Justin to mentally fight his habits or temptation for sucking his thumb. Curing a mental disorder is not as easy as just taking a pill or two. Medicine does not go to the root of the problem. Thumb-sucking is a real condition that people suffer from for many different reasons. Some do it because they weren't weaned as a baby. It is not easy to come to conclusions about Justin's condition because he changes into somebody more social and confident too quickly. It would have been more interesting if Justin spoke to a real psychiatrist throughout the film instead of his orthodontist.



THE BOTTOM LINE: A very well acted, beautifully-shot film with a bizarre plot and even stranger characters. Justin is not as memorable and interesting as Donnie Darko or Napoleon Dynamite, but he is always quirky and likeable.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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