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Twelve and Holding (R)

Release Date: May 19th, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC Films.
The Cast: Conor Donovan, Jesse Camacho, ZoŽ Weizenbaum, Linus Roache, Annabella Sciorra, Jeremy Renner, Jayne Atkinson, Marcia Debonis, Tom McGowan, Bruce Altman, Mark Linn-Baker, Tony Roberts.
Directed by Michael Cuesta.

BASIC PREMISE: Jacob (Donovan), Leonard (Camacho), and Malee (Weizenbaum), three 12 year-old friends, cope with the death of Jacobís twin brother, Rudy (Donovan).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: After a promising first act and an engaging second act, Twelve and Holding falls apart in the third act. The catalytic event takes place when Rudy dies in a fire when two bullies throw a flaming bottle of alcohol at him and his friend Leonard in their tree house. Leonard survives with a loss of the ability to taste and smell. Rudyís twin brother, Jacob, who had remained on the ground throughout the tragic event, survives as well. However, their greatest challenge is now to find a way to cope with Rudyís death in their own way. Jacob tries to figure out if it was an accident or notóhis mother (Atkinson) and father (Roache) are polarized about it. Leonard struggles with his obesity and decides to eat apples because he likes their crunchiness even though he canít taste them. His equally obese mother (Debonis) doesnít respect his new diet. ZoŽ Weizenbaum gives a great performance as Malee, another friend of Rudy. She has a secret crush on Gus (Renner), a man in his 30ís who sees a psychologist who happens to be Maleeís mother (Sciorra). Maleeís mature behavior toward Gus seems bizarre, funny and shocking all at the same time. Director Michael Cuesta gives keeps the drama moving at a fairly brisk pace with great cinematography and presents the three stories of Leonard, Jacob and Malee in an easy-to-follow manner. However, screenwriter Anthony Cipriano loses any realistic feel with an over-the-top third act that simply gets too dramatic and contrived.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Everyone grieves the loss of a dear friendís life in a different way. For 12-year-olds especially, itís very difficult to deal comprehend and cope with death (which is also a part of life) at such an early stage in life. Leonard, Jacob and Malee found their idiosyncratic ways of growing up and facing the harsh realities of the real world.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: An over-the-top third act.


IN A NUTSHELL: Well-directed and engaging, but with a contrived third act and not nearly as subtle and haunting as Cuestaís last film, L.I.E..


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