Delayed Adulthood, Honestly, in True Adolescents


A not-coming-of-age tale nestled in sardonic slacker humor, first-time writer-director Craig Johnson’s True Adolescents effectively essays the costs of postponed adulthood. Mark Duplass plays Sam, a 34-year-old failed musician kicking around Seattle’s indie fringes trying to land a record deal and clinging to a rock-‘n’-roll lifestyle that’s not aging well. Suddenly homeless, Sam is forced to cadge room and board from his suburban aunt (Melissa Leo), who soon drafts him to take her pubescent son, Oliver (Bret Loehr), and his nerdy best friend, Jake (Carr Thompson), camping. The boys’ age-appropriate social and sexual disorientation clashes with Sam’s willful immaturity on the trail, setting up a foregone but mostly earned redemptive conclusion. Johnson establishes an understated, agreeable tone throughout that makes up for the movie’s notable lack of hilarity, and in the outdoors sequences nicely captures how seemingly benign nature can turn nasty in an instant. All the film’s performances are accomplished, too, with Duplass standing out—he nails the curdled charm of an aging smart-ass whose showy rebelliousness masks raging insecurity, itself the reason for his desperate refusal to move forward. We’ve all known, or been, that guy, and it’s a feat that Duplass makes Sam pitiful, repulsive, and unexpectedly resilient without once lapsing into caricature.