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As Cool As I Am: Film Review

The Bottom Line

The modest drama starts off shaky and never takes hold.

Director

Max Mayer

Cast

Claire Danes, James Marsden, Sarah Bolger, Thomas Mann, Jeremy Sisto, Jon Tenney, Anika Noni Rose, Rhys Coiro, Will Peltz, Mario Batali, Peter Fonda

Screenwriter

Virginia Korus Spragg, based on the book by Pete Fromm

Claire Danes and James Marsden are loving but inadequate parents in Max Mayer's coming-of-age story.

A coming-of-age tale suggesting that the most interesting kids are those who've largely had to raise themselves, Max Mayer's As Cool As I Am follows a teenage girl who's becoming painfully aware of the failings of her mother -- a woman who got pregnant in high school and has had little time for her own growing-up process. Familiar faces in supporting roles don't do much for the commercial prospects of this modest film, which feels like a made-for-TV version of the prototypical Sundance-aspiring quest for identity.

Sarah Bolger plays teenager Lucy Diamond, whose mother (Claire Danes) isn't doing well with the strain of long-distance marriage to Chuck (James Marsden), a lumberjack who only gets to come home four or five times a year. As her mother begins to spend more time at work, heading out in clothes clearly meant to draw male coworkers' attention, Lucy feels a sudden urge to test romantic waters herself. She starts making out with Kenny (Thomas Mann), whose longtime best-friend status might make others view the relationship as incestuous, at the same time that more boorish schoolmates begin to notice her sexually. In the space of a few weeks -- particularly as she becomes more stirred up by the tension between her parents -- Lucy looks like a candidate for some of the same mistakes her mother made.

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Much of Virginia Korus Spragg's dialogue feels inauthentic, particularly the drily knowing commentary she gives Lucy; Bolger is intelligent but lacks the spark of precociousness that might wring wit from the lines. Mann is sympathetic in a nerdy way, if similarly challenged by the iffy material; their older co-stars fare better, finding the pathos in characters who don't want their best days to have been in high school.

Production Companies: Wind Dancer Films, Identity Films

Cast: Claire Danes, James Marsden, Sarah Bolger, Thomas Mann, Jeremy Sisto, Jon Tenney, Anika Noni Rose, Rhys Coiro, Will Peltz, Mario Batali, Peter Fonda

Director: Max Mayer

Screenwriter: Virginia Korus Spragg, based on the book by Pete Fromm

Producers: Matt Williams, Anthony Mastromauro, Judd Payne

Executive producers: David McFadzean, Dete Meserve, Ginger Sledge

Director of photography: Tim Suhrstedt

Production designer: Waldemar Kalinowski

Music: Christopher Lennertz

Costume designer: Alysia Raycraft

Editor: Tracey Wadmore-Smith

R, 92 minutes