Okay so read this closely, as it’s kinda confusing. Lou Taylor Pucci, the star of this film, is also in a movie called The Chumscrubber, which seems to have a similar tone, trailer and background to Thumbsucker, and is to be released soon. I haven’t seen such a bizarre coincidence/marketing duality since the asteroid movies Armageddon and Deep Impact, or indeed the devilish thrillers Stigmata and End Of Days (which featured Gabriel Byrne as a priest and the Devil respectively and concurrently). The Chumscrubber’s still on the way, so for the moment let’s look at Thumbsucker…

ThumbsuckerAnd my first reaction is… OMG – Tilda Swinton (Constantine) and Vincent D’Onofrio (The Salton Sea) in the same movie! I’ve died and gone to heaven! These are two of my favourite actors and they don’t disappoint in this film. I’m used to seeing both in more extreme roles, but in Thumbsucker they bring intelligent and insightful performances to the rather bland suburban lives of Audrey and Mike. Lou Taylor Pucci (Personal Velocity) is perfectly cast in the lead role and brilliantly matched by Kelli Garner, whom I last saw delivering an unforgettably harrowing monologue in Larry Clark’s Bully. Vince Vaughn (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) also pops up in a rather unexpected way, and his restrained and mature (but still funny) performance was certainly a highlight. And finally, continuing this trend of casting actors in unexpected roles is Keanu Reaves as the orthodontist who, believe it or not, seems to be the ‘giver of wisdom’. He actually sinks his teeth into the role (sorry ’bout the almost-pun), and whilst not brilliant in the way that Swinton and D’Onofrio are, he certainly does a better job than usual.

Thumbsucker is a slow film, and seemed a lot longer than 96 minutes. It is a good film, however, and isn’t afraid to make some rather strong statements about suburban lifestyle (and in an offhand way bigger issues like nuclear disarmament and media theory). Everyone is this film has their own quirks and habits – things they use to escape from reality, or maybe to simply make the time pass quicker. They’re all looking for something to take them out of their current situation.

The soundtrack provided by Tim Delaughter and The Polyphonic Spree is a highlight, and adds a wonderfully whimsical and melancholic tone to the film. Thumbsucker is about the banality of suburban life; of the relatively secure middle classes whose strife very often comes from within. Addiction is a part of everyday life, and Justin’s habit makes for a rather blatant reminder that we’re all clinging to something, no matter how grown up we think we are.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 29th November 2005
Hoopla Factor: 4.0 stars


Featuring wonderful performances, excellent casting and a surprising intelligence, Thumbsucker is a wonderful film about the attachments we make and what we need to get by.

Featuring a teenager who still sucks his thumb, his parents who dream of a better life – one with a small-screen superstar and the other on the sporting field – and a bizarre orthodontist more focussed on the spiritual than the dental, the world brought to life by Mike Mills is a strange and intriguing one.Thumbsucker Everyone has a crutch they rely on; everyone seems to be waiting for something better. By exploring what holds these people back from achieving their best in life, Mills shows great insight into our human frailties. This is undoubtedly assisted by the source novel, but Mills shows a clear direction and focus, and has crafted an excellent film.

Lou Taylor Pucci gives an astonishing performance that raises the bar for young actors everywhere. Belying his age and relative inexperience, he shows a gentle touch, displaying subtlety and skill in a demanding role that requires he be on screen for most of the 96 minute running time. His skill is evident particularly when dealing with his mother and father, Tilda Swinton and Vincent D’Onofrio, who alternately frustrate and inspire him. These two excellent actors also perform wonderfully, making Justin’s parents believably flawed. Swinton in particular is brilliant as Justin’s mother, and performs well above many of her peers in similar roles.

Keanu Reeves enhances his reputation markedly as the alternative orthodontist – with humour and generosity he balances a bizarre role with the straight role played by Vince Vaughn, more well-known for his comic turns than straight ones. Both men compete for the mind of the central man, and whilst neither stars, they are both excellent. Vaughn plays markedly against type, and may have significantly increased his chances of obtaining more serious roles in the future.

Whilst occasionally slightly slow in making progress, Thumbsucker is full of such great acting and real insight into growing up – both for those still growing and for those we call ‘adults’ – that one can’t help but enjoy it. Intelligent and funny, sad and thoughtful, Thumbsucker is highly recommended.

Rating: 4.0 stars
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 29th November 2005
Hoopla Factor: 3.5 stars

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