Writer-director Laura Colella’s Breakfast with Curtis is a coming-of-age film that defies the trends and traps that have lately made that genre almost insufferable in American cinema.
The hero, 14-year-old Curtis (Jonah Parker), doesn’t spout an endless stream of pop culture references, he’s not soaked in irony, and he doesn’t stand in smug superiority to his surroundings.
A skinny, bespectacled, preternaturally gifted kid who is homeschooled in response to bullying, Curtis walks with his eyes downcast, and he rarely gives more than a two- or three-word answer to any question. In him, Colella perfectly captures what it is to be the outcast who is exiled both involuntarily and by choice. When he was nine, Curtis threw a rock at a neighbor’s cat, causing a rift between his family and the freewheeling boho types next door.
Syd (Theo Green), the de facto leader of the boho house, is a pompous, eccentric bookseller who runs his business out of his home. Flash-forward five years from the cat incident, and Syd hires Curtis to film YouTube vlogs in an effort to boost sales and Syd’s own profile. It’s a gesture that leads to healing and brings Curtis into his own.
A small gem of a film, Breakfast is a lovely tapestry of subtlety, full of sly, smart humor and unforced insights into human nature. Colella sets the tale to quirky rhythms, letting her camera purposefully drift from the main narrative to the exploits and philosophizing of her rich secondary characters, and then circles back to Curtis as he lives through one of those seminal summers that will shape his life.