One of the more interesting books I’ve read is David Sedaris’ Naked. This compilation of essays details the life of Sedaris, from his upbringing, to his college years, to becoming an adult. Sedaris really made this compilation his own, the novel has a very sharp wit, and featured a great deal of dark humor about some of the tragic events that happened in Sedaris’ life. One of the many essays is now being adapted into film, and that is C.O.G.
Premiering earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, C.O.G. has been on my radar for quite sometime. This year in general has been a standout year for coming of age flicks, with Prince Avalanche, Spectacular Now, Kings of Summer, and The Way, Way Back all being some of the better films of the year so far. While all four of these films were great, each of the four were similar in tone, which made me excited for C.O.G. While it’s not quite the as good as I hoped, C.O.G. is a solid coming of age flick.
C.O.G. follows David, who has decided to take a break from a college, and head out to Oregon to gain life experience. From there, David works at an apple orchard and discovers more and more about people and who he really is.
The film is highly reliant on its lead Jonathan Groff, and he does a great job anchoring the film. Being the only actor in the movie with significant screen time, Groff has to basically carry the film, and he does so well. Groff is able to have sharp wit that you’d expect when reading the short story, while being very fragile and emotional. In general, this is as good as the filmmakers could have done adapting this character.
The direction here is solid. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez does a good job in his second outing as a director. Alvarez is able to handle most of the story’s themes and emotions well, while progressing the movie in a good steady pace. The balance between comedy and drama can be tough to pull off, and Alvarez is able to pull this off well, with the film never feeling like it was jumping around too much.
Alvarez along with his crew also shine with the aesthetics. Alvarez along with great indie cinematographer Jas Shelton is able to establish this great Oregon rural land as a character, which is always impressive to see in a film. The score of the film accompanies the look well, with a very distinct style that fits the very eccentric take of America well.
Going into the film, the most important aspect was the execution of the emotional core of the film. That is done here very well, and done so with much subtlety, thanks in large part to Groff’s performance and the direction. Still, it does not have the same affect that Sedaris’ short story did, due to some problems.
This film is very much a Sedaris fan project, which will alienate most. This is largely due to some of the very underlined and subtle elements in the film being far more prominent in the short story. Hearing from others, this is the type of film where reading and knowing the source material is very much needed, which a film should never really do.
The supporting cast is no where near as strong as the film’s lead. Denis O’Hare and Corey Stroll are the only two other actors who really have any substantial screen time, and both do a sub-par job. This could be a mix of their direction or just their talent, but they did not fit the characters as well as they could have. Perhaps with more development, it could have worked, but they felt a bit half-baked.
The biggest problem is that Sedaris’ voice as a writer is missing here. Sedaris is a fantastic writer, and brings such a unique voice to this material in the short story. Here, Sedaris’s writing is missing, taking a lot out of the material. Sure, there are a few clever witticisms thrown around every now and then, but a big part of the novel is just missing, which is a huge problem for the film.
Well-made and featuring a great performance from its lead, C.O.G. is a solid attempt at adapting this great work, that doesn’t quite stick its landing. Still worth a watch on VOD and On Demand.
Take a Shot: For each odd person who is encountered.
Take a Shot: During each blank stare.
Take a Drink: During the dildo scene…yep, you heard right.