Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Author David Sedaris has earned global acclaim through his comedic essays, many of which draw on his own diaries and experiences, which gives them heart as well as humour. C.O.G. marks the first time that his work has been adapted for cinema, with Easier With Practice writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez stepping up to the plate. The result is an odd clash of tone between Sedaris' larger than life characters - somehow so much more believable on the page - and Alvarez's muted indie landscape.

Affable TV actor Jonathan Groff is the author's surrogate, David, a preppy whitebread student, whom we meet as he is "going off the radar" on a Greyhound bus that's a far cry from Simon and Garfunkel's take on looking for America. There are family and personal reasons for his jaunt to the back of beyond, which become apparent as the movie progresses and which, if you know anything about Sedaris, you'll spot from the start.

Copy picture

Adopting the name Samuel, he has a romanticised vision of "getting his hands dirty" on an Oregon fruit farm. The narrative is a sort of posh picaresque, as Samuel first picks apples, while getting a few stern life lessons from craggy bossman Hoggs (Dean Stockwell, loving every minute) - including a nicely worked Sisyphus moment with a gas bottle. He then finds himself elevated to factory work, where his colleague Curly (Corey Stoll) takes a shine to him, a frisson that ends in a scene of rather too broad comedy.

From there on in, we stay with Samuel, bruised but largely uncowed from his experiences as he falls in with Jon (the fabulous Denis O'Hare), who proves to be a far more interesting character than he is. A born-again Christian and former soldier, who lost a leg and found God, O'Hare's Jon is a maelstrom of conflict. On the one hand, he has an open, faithful approach to life, viewing it as his duty to look after Samuel and try to set him on the right path, but he is also cursed with a tendency to blow his top unexpectedly and a mind so narrow, his opinions will never turn round.

There is no doubt that the film has its moments, particularly once Jon comes on the scene, but Alvarez's stance towards his characters is so resolutely ambivalent it flirts with dull. The pace is slow and the journey meandering without any real sense of a mental destination being reached by David, who remains inscrutable to the last. Despite Alvarez's good work with his actors, the oil of Sedaris's satirical characters and water of Alvarez's indie sensibilities refuse to mix.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2013
Share this with others on...
A student takes time out in Oregon and learns some life lessons.

Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Writer: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Starring: Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, Casey Wilson, Troian Bellisario

Year: 2013

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: US

Search database: