As Cool As I Am: Film Review

The modest drama starts off shaky and never takes hold.

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