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As Cool As I AM

The Missed Opportunities of Life.

Ah, adolescence and the discovery that ensues … and all aspects of life that are discovered when a person makes the transition from child to teenager to adult. And therein resides the story of As Cool as I Am, directed by Max Mayer and based on a novel by Pete Fromm.

Lucy Diamond (Sarah Bolger) is a teenage girl discovering that her life and her parents aren’t exactly as she imagined they were. Her father, Chuck (James Marsden) is rarely at home due to his occupation as a lumberjack and her mother, Lainee (Claire Danes), isn’t quite living up to expectations. This age of discovery begins when Lucy first realizes that the relationship between her parents is far from perfect. In reality, it’s quite challenged.  Lainee and Chuck were teen parents and married young, barely having the opportunity to live out and explore their own adolescence, which they now seem to be doing in conjunction with Lucy.

These are troublesome times for any teen, and Lucy reacts, rebels, explores and grows in a variety of ways that force her to grow up quick and in ways she didn’t expect. She and her best friend Kenny (Thomas Mann) decide to escalate their relationship into something more passionate – first with kisses and then beyond. They respond in different ways to their changing relationship – at times it seems to be heading toward love and at other times separation. The emotions of a friendship turning physical is one they both find challenging to negotiate.

The two teens also begin to expand their social scene, going to parties and hanging out with fast-moving crowd. As Lucy and Kenny become closer, they simultaneously pull away from each other very much paralleling the relationship with her parents, Lainee and Chuck.

As the story progresses, Lainee enters into a relationship with a co-worker (Jeremy Sisto) – two things she attempts to keep secret from her part-time husband, but in unable to do so with her daughter. Chuck makes periodic appearances and attempts to play husband and father for brief moments of Lucy’s life before leaving again.

More often than not, As Cool as I am feels like a missed opportunity.  It plays into some extremely real and powerful themes teenagers and families are confronted with in contemporary times (teenage drinking, sex, infidelity, first love, economics, rape, STDs to name a few). Events that are passed over, never spoken of again, and/or often left unresolved are often some of the most disappointing as the story continues. As a viewer we wait for resolutions, or at least conversations that never occur.

The actors seem to embrace the roles and create characters full of conflicting emotions struggling with who they are and who they would like to be. And, this may be the very reason why we truly feel the need for resolution in As Cool as I Am.  We are accustomed to neatly wrapped up endings in movies, probably because they rarely exists in real life – more often than not we do not find resolution, but a missed opportunity.

Grade: B

Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine

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