Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 2013. Forty Second Productions, Rhino Films. Screenplay by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, based on the essay by David Sedaris. Cinematography by Jas Shelton. Produced by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Cookie Carosella, Stephen Nemeth. Music by Joe Berry, Steve Reich. Production Design by Gary Barbosa. Costume Design by Julie Carnahan. Film Editing by Fernando Collins.
Jonathan Groff plays a Yale student who decides to take time off from the fine life, running away from his family to Oregon where he and his best friend plan to work an apple orchard. She changes her mind at the last minute and takes off with her new boyfriend, leaving him alone to get to know the orchard’s gruff manager (Dean Stockwell) while barely befriending the Mexican immigrants with whom he does not share a common language. The invisibility of this life begins to appeal to him and he moves up to an apple processing plant where he makes the acquaintance of a very friendly Corey Stoll, then runs away from there to shack up with a born-again Christian (Denis O’Hare) who has a bad temper and a knack for making clocks out of jade. This sleepy character exploration in a minor key is the first cinematic adaptation of a David Sedaris essay and suffers from a complete devotion to the author’s style: small points of story and personality detail that often feel random and rarely contribute to the development of a character’s journey are everywhere, making a ninety minute movie feel much longer than it should. Sedaris generally writes about people he is observing until he figures out what’s strange about them, an element that comes off wry in print but, while watching a character who just falls back on vulnerability and never makes any choices, just seems like snobbery on film. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez seems to agree with Sedaris’ apparent loftiness: his character arrives in Oregon believing himself superior to the lowly working class people he interacts with and learns that they are not only inferior but are also dangerous. Groff is a terrific actor whose subtlety and sensitivity will contribute to a deservedly successful career, but watching him avoid any kind of development is frustrating and pointless.