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Movie Natters: September 29, 2005 Archive

Thumbsucking across the generations

Posted at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2005 by Euan Kerr

Mike Mills the director and screenwriter of "Thumbsucker" dropped by the MPR studios a few weeks back. He brought along Lou Pucci, the teenage phenom who took the top awards for acting at both Sundance and Berlin for his performance as Justin Cobb, the thumbsucker of the title.

I am guessing that there's a good 20 years of an age difference between them, but it was striking how well these two guys related to one another. Mike Mills may have a little salt and pepper in his hair, but it is clear he's still a teenager at heart. Lou Pucci, on the other hand, looks younger than he is, but seems wise beyond his years.

We talked about the idea of being completely honest as an actor. Pucci made the distinction between pretending to be someone else as you must as an actor, yet still telling the deeper truth. He says he was startled by the intensity Vincent D'Onofrio brought to to the business of telling that truth.

Together Pucci and Mills have made a thought-provoking movie about the miseries of being a teenager.

Based on Walter Kirn's novel (which was actually set in Stillwater, Mn) the movie chronicles Justin Cobb's senior year in high school. He spends much of the time trying to work out what is wrong with him. As time passes it becomes clear his parents (played by Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio,) his debate teacher (Vince Vaughn) and even his new age orthodontist (Keanu Reeves) are all quietly asking themselves the same self-searching question.

Mills calls it a double coming of age story, with both child and parents struggling with the question of who they really are at the same time.

"Thumbsucker" isn't going to satisfy everyone, but it's going to resonate with a lot of folks. Mike Mills says it's his dream that teens and parents will see this film, perhaps seperately, then talk to each other about a film they saw which touched them. I have a feeling that may happen.

[Audio and futher information is available on the feature page 'Thumbsucker' explores the bleaker side of being a teenager]

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