If you’re partial to a movie set deep in the heart of suburbia, Thumbsucker will be the one for you.It is the feature debut of Mike Mills - not to be confused with the bassist from REM - an incredibly talented music video maker-cum-graphic designer who has been honing his craft and peculiar perspective on life in the worlds of rock, fashion and progressive pop for years. Fans of international digital film festival Resfest will be familiar with his short film/clip work, as will anyone who reads McSweeney’s-published pop journal The Believer. A DVD including one of his best films was part of the Jan '05 issue, 'Rhathymia’.Since the 1990s Mills has been cluing us in to his distinct filmmaking talents with unique short films like Deformer (2001), an ethereal and poetic 16 minute documentary about young skateboarder/artist Ed Templeton, a legendary LA figure. In that film we get to go inside his mind and explore the kind of life he leads outside, seemingly trapped within the four walls of his home. Coming on like a short Larry Clark might have slipped in between Kids (1995) and Ken Park (2004) - it’s comparably uncensored, poetic, strange and photographic - Deformer looks like fiction but feels like non-fiction. Ultimately it gives the 'subject’ Templeton a powerful platform from which he shows and tells us how he’s living, who he is. In a similar way, Thumbsucker, Mills’s first full-blown feature, strikes a perfect balance between the inner lives of his characters and the external forces that control them (ie destiny, the story). It superbly fuses drama and comedy, real-life with film. Simply put – and as its title might suggest - it is a film about growing up. Or moreover, about people refusing to grow up.In his first starring role role, Lou Taylor Pucci – a former New Jersey teen rocker turned actor – inhabits the eccentric central role of Justin Cobb, the eldest son of Mike and Audrey Cobb (acting heavyweights Vincent D’Onofrio and Tilda Swinton). Everyone is clinging to their own insecurities/neurises in this movie: Justin is 17 and still sucks his thumb. Dad Mike is utterly ashamed of him, still mired in the accident that robbed him of high school football stardom all those years ago and Justin it seems is never going to make up for that. And while mum Audrey is best friends with both her son and her husband she is also in denial about getting older, taking leave from the youth she once knew and adored. To a degree, both parents are living through their kids.While Justin doesn’t see too much of a problem with his compulsion everyone else does and it starts to get in the way of his life. He seeks 'counsel’ from his New Age dentist Perry (Keanu Reeves, on fire), with some bizarre results. Attempting to act as a role model for Justin, Perry goes against his own true nature with some hilarious results. The scenes shared between these two actors provide some of the film’s most entertaining, as do those with Vince Vaughn as Justin’s teacher, excelling at being cast against type.Finally Justin decides to bite the bullet and conform. Diagnosed as, of course! ADHD by his school administration, he takes the medication prescribed and transforms into the worst version of himself. He joins the school debating team, becomes an annoying over-achiever and continues to drive himself and everyone else up the wall, manipulating situations to fit in with his new persona. When that’s not enough, he turns to other “diversions” to stay sane… (If it sounds like the from-subversive-to-company-man journey taken by Ben Lee’s character in underrated Australian film The Rage In Placid Lake you’d be right).It’s a wild little ride we’re taken on in Thumbsucker. The script – confidently adapted by Mills from Walter Kirn’s novel – possesses a beautiful symmetry, weird yet accessible humour, and superbly-drawn characters we can all relate to. Like Donnie Darko (2001) and this years’s Me And You And Everyone We Know (comparable films also set inside sweetly dysfunctional families in suburbia), it really doesn’t miss a beat. Thumsucker too is a film that looks at 'small’ lives within a bigger context. It seems to be saying that the trick is to live life without all the answers. Once we surrender to that, somehow things will work out okay…


1 hour 36 min