For once, the film's title is hardly a coy allusion or abstract metaphor - Thumbsucker is a movie about, yes, a thumbsucker. More specifically, he's a 17-year-old thumbsucker, a fact that hardly endears him to his schoolmates or family. As would be expected in most any film about a socially awkward teen, the story is ultimately about his maturation (or lack thereof) into the adult world. What it ends up being, however, is more like the chronicle of some hardworking parents stuck with a truly problematic son who's about as unlikable as it gets.
As parents Audrey and Mike Cobb, Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio seem an odd choice, but it's an absolutely perfect one. Director Mike Mills may not have the best ear for story or subject matter (the source novel by Walter Kirn, should likely have been left on the unfilmed backlist) but he's dead-on when it comes to tone and casting. A pair of tired out working-class adults in a small Northwest town who can't quite accept being grownups, they have their two boys call them by their first names. Everything around them betrays this hope, of course, with Audrey working night shifts as a nurse at a celebrity drug treatment clinic just to catch a glimpse of an addict TV star she's got a girlish crush on, and Mike as the beaten-down manager of a sporting goods store unable to forget that but for an injury he could have gone pro.
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