Before Star Wars made the dominant setting of pop culture Science Fiction in-space there were other stories that proposed the big “What if?” to a scientific reality and explored the repercussions of changing it. Older films didn’t have the ability to make billions of polygons dance on screen so they had to use plot and intrigue to grip an audiences attention, the ones that did survive in general knowledge to this day.
The film starts with a tenure professor’s going away party, the intention being to make final farewells to his friends of the last ten years. The last remnants of his packing that are on show and spark questions that lead to the idea that he proposes to the group: “What if a man, from the Upper Palaeolithic survived until the present day?” The academics and guests proceed to follow the hypothesis through conversation and enquiry.
Despite only the briefest of movements on the porch the stage is the hosts lounge with the story progressing purely through the parties discussions. The dialogue grips your attention so much that you easily imagine entire realms of possibilities about when and what the ‘caveman’ experienced.
One idea presented is of the “all knowing immortal”; a 14,000 year old would only be able to learn upto the edge of published knowledge on a particular subject, the noosphere grows too fast for anyone able to keep up. As such his current preoccupation’s information would be current but the Literature Doctorate from a century ago would be mostly redundant.
Same goes for experiences, a singular viewpoint of his nearest 100 metres doesn’t allow for a great perspective of what the world was doing at any one moment. You might be able to relay key events if you’re part of them but anything important enough to be of note indirectly puts attention on you, something that could result in your secrets discovery. Such a lapse could have dire consequences since as an ageless prisoner you would be trapped in your own body with escape as your only hope whereas a mortals death or escape could be their release.
This is one of those rare films (and by proxy the book ) that deserves to be remembered for its examination of long life, something that although has been done before it is done in a way and to a greater extent that the Highlander cinema never did. A rarity with great plot writing has becoming so scarce in the mainstream.
If you enjoyed what they could squeeze into this 108 minute film then I suggest checking out the book by Jerome Bixby of the same name.
A diamond in the rough, this is definitely not another Napoleon Dynamite. What Napolean did for Pop Culture Thumbsucker does the exact opposite to the teen angst genre producing one of the first films to be widely regarded as “American Indie”.
Thumbsucker brings all those problems that we are so used to seeing to new sensational heights.
Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci) is 17 and still sucks his thumb. It’s not surprising that Justin is still clutching to his “security blanket” as his mother dreams over of television heartthrob and his father mourns his college football days. In addition to this both insist that their children call them by their first names in a vain attempt to not be perceived as old.
His ‘problem’ combined with his parents might be overcome if there were some other strong role models for him to turn to but unfortunately there are not any. The closest is possibly Mr Geary (Vince Vaugh) the teacher in charge of the schools debate club, a character that feels it’s entirely acceptable to summon the entire club to the men’s room for a pep talk.
Keanu Reeves, a name everyone should know by now, performs brilliantly with a dialogue consisting mainly of “hippie psychobabble” as the alternative inspirational mentor. Reeves plays a orthodontist who believes that he can treat teeth damaging problems psychologically. Using various methods such as encouraging Justin to summon his power animal to pointing out that sucking your thumb is a substitute for a mothers nibble. Whilst encouraging he isn’t without his own problems as he performs on his reclined open mouth patents.
Diagnosed by his principal and treated for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with Ritalin-type drugs Justin then begins his metamorphosis. The transition begins with Justin being held in limbo, opportunities have now opened to him and he’s lost with choices. Whilst this sounds incredibly samey to other films you really feel the despair as you are essentially shown Justin’s entire world before this happens giving you a full panoramic of where he is and how hard it is to see where he’s going.
The personal growth of Justin is entirely undermined by the fact that his parents resent being adults something that whilst not as obvious as a hit in the face adds to the tethers that is holding him back.
The Director/screenwriter Mike Mills transfers Walter Kirn’s novel perfectly (yes I enjoyed the film enough to read it) expecting vast plot points and internal insecurities to be placed in the dark for the film I was surprised to see how many were portrayed if even subtly into the film.
Certainly something to see if you have the chance although I wouldn’t choose it for a first date, perhaps for a third or forth when you can both happily sit together and take in everything that you are bombarded with. Stunning story, well cast and enjoyable to watch.