Thumbsucker (2005)

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Released 26-Apr-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-ConversationWith Mike Mills(Director)&Walter Kirn (Novelist)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Interviews-Crew-Interview With Writer/Director Mike Mills
DVD-ROM Extras-Director's Blog
Trailer-Lords Of Dogtown, Ringers: Lord Of The Fans, Saving Face
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 92:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Mike Mills

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Lou Taylor Pucci
Tilda Swinton
Vincent D'Onofrio
Vince Vaughn
Keanu Reeves
Benjamin Bratt
Kelli Garner
Chase Offerle
Ted Beckman
Arvin V. Entena
Tyler Gannon
Allen Go
Dakota Goldhor
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Tim DeLaughter
Elliott Smith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

ĎTeenage angstí films used to be fun, memorable and insightful, as writer/director John Hughes had a gift for communicating with adolescent audiences - who can forget Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Of course there were others such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Heathers and Pump up the Volume but these days being a teenager is surely more tragic, isolate and dangerous as the teenage angst films of the late 90s indicate.

In recent years drug abuse, mental illness and anti social behaviour specifically in adolescence has been explored in Basketball Diaries, American Beauty, Ghost World, Donnie Darko and Igby Goes Down. No longer are the teen characters just annoyed but their whole worlds are skewed and as a result they are vulnerable and their immediate families are no sanctuary as they are just as equally dysfunctional.

Thumbsucker feels like the ultimate culmination of all of these films as the titular character is the troubled outsider who is existent in every Holden Caulfield character before him, except he isnít as admirable - he is needy, nerdy and in some ways pitiable. The Thumbsucker is Justin, played by newcomer Lou Pucci who won the Special Jury prize for acting and the Silver Bear for best actor at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival for this coming of age role. Justin at the age of 17 still sucks his thumb and this behaviour doesnít just affect his confidence but everyone who exists in his middle class suburbia world.

At his parentís request Justin refers to his parents by their first names as they donít want to feel old. Audrey is Justinís mother (Tilda Swinton). She is terribly sympathetic towards her son and their relationship is predominately well grounded - both are dreamers. Justinís father is Mike (Vincent D'Onofrio), a realist who cannot understand his son. Mike is constantly questioning his role as a father. He is unsure of how to approach his son which results in often insensitive and cruel behaviour. Justinís younger foul-mouthed brother Joel is perhaps the only functional member of the household.

Outside of the home Justin is alienated at school but is encouraged by his good-natured teacher Mr. Geary played by Vince Vaughn. Perhaps the most prolific mentor for Justin is his orthodontist Perry Lyman played brilliantly and effortlessly by Keanu Reeves. Justin has a sometimes girlfriend in Rebecca (Kelli Garner) but despite her normal exterior she, like Justin, will prove to be dysfunctional.

Due to Justinís inability to be Ďnormalí he is swiftly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and prescribed high doses of Ritalin which creates the new and improved Ďnormalí Justin who proves to be even more stranger then the weird vulnerable individual he used to be. Like Justinís transformation, every character in this film will encounter an epiphany and it will prove Justin isnít as alone as he thinks he is.

Nevertheless Thumbsucker isnít a particularly feel good film; the film shares a similar tone to the scenes revolving around family in Donnie Darko. This isnít a particularly humorous film either, it is actually tragic. It is a strange concoction of the uplifting and the depressing as the film employs songs by The Polyphonic Spree and Elliott Smith. Perhaps this is a flaw in the film as it didnít have a clear direction in whether it wanted to be a direct drama akin to American Beauty or a quirky adolescent film like Rushmore or even Napoleon Dynamite.

The film was directed by Mike Mills, formerly a music video director, and he was notably nominated for A Golden Bear, an Independent Spirit Award and a Grand Jury Prize for his tireless effort. The film is derived from the novel of the same name written by Walter Kirn who acknowledges the novel is written from a series of memories. This is important as the character of Justin makes some questionable decisions on the spur of the moment, as do many of the other characters. Such ambiguity may be considered to be a result of underwritten characters, but as Kirn suggests it may have been imposed in such a way so that the audience needs to come to their own conclusions. It may even be a comment that life cannot be planned, only lived.

While the film does have some flaws it is admirable and with such a large cast who are playing against type. Vincent D'Onofrio gives a standout performance and Vince Vaughn is also commendable. Tilda Swinton is reliable as always and Keanu Reeves truly steals the limelight with his limited screen time. Benjamin Bratt also appears in a minor role.

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Transfer Quality


Thumbsucker is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and is 16x9 enhanced. The colour scheme of the film is well presented - there are a number of candy coloured interludes, similar to Punch Drunk Love.

Flesh tones are natural and there are no major issues regarding the quality of the print or its transfer to DVD as there is no noticeable MPEG compression artefacting or grain. Overall it is a pristine transfer with good shadow detail and black levels. The subtitles are true to the onscreen dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The soundtrack is also well produced on this DVD. The soundtrack plays an important role in the film and proves to be an encompassing experience. Subwoofer usage is average and the score includes the 20+ ensemble of The Polyphonic Spree led by Tim DeLaughter. The late Elliot Smith was involved in the production before his death in 2003 and provided three songs for the soundtrack including a cover of Cat Stevensí 'Trouble'. During the quieter moments of the film the soundtrack is clear, pristine and dialogue is audible. Overall the score is uplifting and yet melancholy, much like the film itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction

The main menu is nicely designed and themed with selective score.

Audio Commentary

Strangely, the special features menu lists this extra as ĎConversation With Director Mike Mills and Novelist Walter Kirní but it actually is the Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Mike Mills.

Being Mike Millsí first commentary as this is his debut feature film, he seems a little uneasy and like most directors doesnít want to enforce his view of the film onto the audience and as a result speaks broadly about the production. He speaks in length about working with the actors and their subsequent characters and speaks relatively enthusiastically, but overall seems self-conscious. This is an average commentary which doesnít really deal with the issues presented by the film, it is more so to do with the production itself.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

This behind the scenes documentary is the seemingly usual talking heads edited with clips from the film and behind the scenes footage, although this is slightly better than the usual fare as the cast and crew seem enthusiastic about the American Independent production and the actors speak of their attraction to the dysfunctional roles. (21:49)

The Interview with Director Mike Mills and Novelist Walter Kirn

'The Interview with Director Mike Mills and Novelist Walter Kirn' details the same issues as covered in the commentary but with more of a focus on the book. Kirn and Mills speak freely of the book and what they intended as well as financing and marketing. A nice extra, with more depth than the commentary. (41:39)

DVD-ROM Extras

The Directorís Blog details the production of the film. It can only be accessed via DVD-ROM.


A selection of trailers including Lords of Dogtown, Ringers, Saving Face and Stealth.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The local release is identical except the R1 features trailers for 2046, Breakfast on Pluto, Junebug, London, Memory of a Killer, Saint Ralph, and The Tenants.


Thumbsucker is the latest in the new wave of teenage angst films which proves adolescence doesnít really disappear with adulthood and the taking on of new responsibilities. It is an admirable effort and should be viewed simply for Keanu Reevesí role as a guru orthodontist. I suggest a rental before purchase as the filmís promotion is somewhat misleading. If you enjoy the film, the DVD presentation is very good audio/visual wise, and considering this is an independent film, it has surprisingly been supplemented with a nice selection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Friday, March 31, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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