A couple of absurdly attractive middle-aged suburbanites lie in bed at the end of a long day, playfully nibbling on one another, until the female half stops to wonder aloud if their teenage son is having sex. A mother enlists her son's help in shopping for a dress to wear to get the attention of the TV star with whom she hopes to have an affair. A 17-year-old girl gets her boy best friend friend high, blindfolds him, and orders him to suckle her ample breasts.
It's not HBO, it's Thumbsucker, the new movie from artist/music video director Mike Mills, which ends an almost year-long festival lap by opening in select theaters tomorrow. It's a curious thing, this film; episodic yet rambling, by turns sex farce and existential soap. It covers no real new territory for a top-tier indie, and yet it's an extremely satisfying film to sit through, funny and bittersweet, and unexpectedly epic in its emotional range. It almost seems to play the flip side to Gregg Araki's fabulous film from earlier this year, Mysterious Skin. That was the story of suburban teenagers trying to figure out how to be sexual beings whilst hiding dark, terrible secrets; this is the story of suburban teenagers trying to figure out how to be sexual beings, when their desires alone feel like dark, terrible, secrets. It's not hard to turn tragedy into comedy; a stroke of the mundane is all it takes.