Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, Troian Bellisario, Dale Dickey, Casey Wilson, Eloy MŽndez
Written by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, based on a story by David Sedaris
Directed by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 88
Date: 09/19/2013

C.O.G. (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sour Apples

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

C.O.G. claims to be the first movie adapted from the writings of essayist/humorist David Sedaris, and it's a huge disappointment. Sedaris' work is wry, self-effacing, witty and often tender. This movie is simultaneously confused, arrogant, and passive. As with almost any movie told from the point of view of a writer, the lead character is only a passive observer, and is not at all engaging. Likewise, other characters never come to life because we only see them from one vantage point.

Snooty Yale graduate David (Jonathan Groff) -- who subsequently goes by "Samuel" -- decides to go off the grid and find himself. He gets a job picking apples, but unwanted advances from a male co-worker, Curly (Corey Stoll) sends him running. Penniless, he turns to Jon (Denis O'Hare), whom he met handing out religious pamphlets on the street (with the mysterious acronym "C.O.G." on them). Samuel joins Jon in his artistic vocation, making clocks shaped like Oregon out of jade and trying to sell them at craft fairs. At the same time, Jon tries to convince Samuel that he needs to embrace God and takes him to church. Samuel struggles with these concepts of faith, as well as more earthbound troubles.

As for the movie's themes, it hints at the character's homosexuality, but totally ignores it and buries it until a final moment that's too little, too late. And then, after a cynically humorous opening scene, the humor stops, the religious themes are introduced with the utmost seriousness, and finally, these are just as suddenly dropped. Most disturbingly, a quasi-attempted rape is shrugged off as an awkward inconvenience. The only thing that's consistent about the movie is that none of it feels genuine.

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