The genre of comedies about scruffy, directionless 30-year-old man-boys has occasionally produced a sub-genre where those men are pitted against actual young people, either as contrast (when the teenagers are more mature than the adults) or so they can wallow in their juvenile behavior together. We got a big-studio taste of that with last year's Role Models, and now here's True Adolescents, the indie version, which means it has more contemplative moments and a lot of mumbling.
Mark Duplass, already a recognizable face in the so-called mumblecore movement, stars as Sam, a Seattle slacker whose rock band is, at least in his mind, always on the verge of hitting it big. To an impartial observer, it's more like he's unemployed. After his girlfriend throws him out, he crashes with his aunt Sharon (Melissa Leo), who's sympathetic but realistic about Sam's need to grow up and get serious.
Sharon is divorced and has custody of her son, 14-year-old Oliver (Bret Loehr), who looks at Internet porn and behaves in a surly fashion -- "he's in his 'greasy little bastard' phase," Sam says. Oliver and his best friend, Jake (Carr Thompson) ("Little Lord Fauntleroy," Sam calls him) have been looking forward to a weekend camping trip with Oliver's father; when he flakes out, Sam is conscripted to take the boys himself.
As farcical as that scenario may sound -- they're on a collision course with wackiness! -- first-time writer/director Craig Johnson keeps the humor down-to-earth. The film is an acerbic but realistic coming-of-age story, with all three male characters experiencing some growth over the course of the trip, the tone gradually shifting from hipster-funny to hipster-introspective.