As Cool as I Am (2013)

Comedy, Drama
Claire Danes, James Marsden, Sarah Bolger, Jeremy Sisto
A smart teenage girl comes of age in a small town with her self-centered parents who had her when they were teenagers.
  • As Cool Inc. Company:
  • R Rated:
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  • N/A Released:
  • 21 Oct 2013 DVD Release:
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A film about people7/10
On the surface this seems like a simple, predictable film. It doesn't have a grand storyline nor does the plot build up to a single defining moment.

Essentially, this is a film about flawed characters who make flawed choices. They don't always say the right thing or solve all of their problems. They are simply human.

Danes is wonderful as the now 'grown up' teen mother, struggling with her own identity crisis as her daughter - the same age as her mother was when she was born - is too exploring her sexuality and considering her future. Bolger plays the role with enough restraint to avoid the teenager stereotype, whilst Marsden, although his scenes are brief, is so believable as the absent father.

I can see where this film could be seen as shallow and it's true that there are a few stronger issues that are touched on but not really developed (consent, domestic violence to name a few). However, in a way I appreciated how the plot continued on without delving into the complexities and our characters continued to make the impulsive and flawed decisions that make them as human and realistic as you or me - shaped by these things that have happened to them, but not defined.
Starts out strongly, fell apart and ended with a whimper7/10
I watched this movie thinking that this movie is actually one of those light-hearted family comedy-drama. I was pleasantly surprised that it served more... much much more.

As the plot summary already contained, this movie is the coming-of-age tale of Lucy, a smart 15-year old girl who's a product of teenage pregnancy. Her father is pretty much absent most of the year because he has to work as a lumberjack somewhere. And while he is an absentee father, he is very much committed to provide for his family. As her dad (played by James Marden) grew up in an orphanage, he has a longing to have a traditional family where the mother stays at home while the father goes away to find livelihood. Her mother, having deprived of living a single life being married at an early age, tries to live the single life ---while trying to hold on to her family --- with disastrous consequences.

The first half of the movie started out fantastic, taking its time to establish the main players in Lucy's life which is mainly her parents and her best friend since they were kids, Kenny. Contrary to one of the user reviews here, Lucy and Kenny are not "unreal". Although they were not your typical average teenagers driven by raging hormones, these type of kids exist (I would know, I'm one of them). Their belief system were mainly shaped by the family they were born in. Kenny, a product of divorced parents looks forward to a relationship that will last but is very pragmatic which pretty much stops him from going for things he really wants. Lucy, having parents who were unprepared to be parents, has to overcompensate for her parent's irresponsibility. However, as any teenager who goes through self-discovery, she eventually started exploring her sexuality and romantic relationships unguided. And as any teenager who goes through bouts of angst and anger, she also started unraveling.

All of these drew me in. Sarah Bolger, who plays Lucy, embodied the part so well that it's quite hard not to fall for her--- flaws and all. Claire Danes and James Marden, for the most part, were effective and sometimes brilliant.

However, the movie started to fell apart when it tried to do too much. And instead of focusing on one theme... it started adding in heavy sub-plots that didn't go anywhere or if it did, it didn't come to a satisfying close that will eventually support the main plot. And when you start stacking more and more, it's bound to fall apart. Not that the sub-plots were bad. Had this been a TV mini-series, it would have been more effective because these sub-plots could have been explored at length. But considering the medium, it just weighted the movie down... hard...

And it's an extreme disservice because the first half of the movie was really good. There were some well put together which showed moments of brilliance. As much as I want to remember the movie for it, I can't erase from memory the last 30 minutes and especially that ending that wasted great talents like Peter Fonda. And suddenly, the movie ends with a whimper... as if the writer just ran out of paper to write on. In coming of age movies like this one, it's important that the main characters have to come face to face with the need to evolve and move from point a to b. And although the ending somehow shows us that Lucy finds peace in surrendering to her fate. It felt abrupt and forced.

Honestly, I would give this a movie a 6/10 but the 5.5 rating is I think too low for a movie that actually showed a lot of promise. So never mind the last 30 minutes of the movie, I still fell in love with Lucy so I'm giving this a 7.
Had potential6/10
Firstly, I need to say that I enjoyed this film, I did. It held my attention and I felt satisfied afterward. Yes, it was mildly predictable in places but not annoyingly so.

What did frustrate me though was the lack of depth. A couple of other reviewers mentioned this so I'm glad I'm not alone: There were so many issues that I thought were going to be explored further and just.... weren't. Even the ending, although mildly cathartic, left me with unanswered questions.

Still, taken at face value, the film was... nice.

Hmm... I'm realizing this review is a bit 'meah'; not really negative, not really positive, but that's a direct reflection of the film's content, so sorry!
As troubled as I was (and still am)8/10
As Cool as I Am isn't really a gripping film, and will likely be far away from my favorites of the year, but in terms of trying to revitalize the coming-of-age drama with a delightfully contemporary idea and script is succeeds solely on that merit. It concerns Lucy (Sarah Bolger), a well-mannered fourteen year old who has a lumberjack father Chuck (James Marsden) who is away for long periods of time due to work and her mother Lainee (Claire Danes), who might as well be her age thanks to her attitude and approach to reality. Lucy always had the idea that her family was "stable" in that they functioned like a normal family. However, as she gets older, she realizes her family is a "real" one, with problems and conflicts that are usually not instantly noticed by kids. This whole idea of "stable" and "real" families is discussed in the opening monologue, pretty much admitting the film will not be a narrow look at this common issue that is quickly growing.

That issue is having a child at a young age. Chuck and Lainee had Lucy when they were both seventeen, making them not much older than her in retrospect, leaving most of their decisions to be rather impulsive and quite questionable. For such a contemporary issue - having children and kids young and, often, out of wedlock - this one is scarcely brought up and thrown into public eye. Director Max Mayer, of the 2009 sleeper-hit Adam, brings a mature and focused look to the subject by allowing each character some expression and a moment when their personality comes out.

Lucy is already becoming a young woman, and with an unstable family life and an absent father, this leads her on a path she wouldn't normally take. She becomes more flirtatious, acts differently around her guy friends, and on several occasions almost consents to sex. This plot alone wages the question "are teens more likely to become rebellious if they do not have both parents playing a significant role in their life?" When her father returns home, and realizes that Lucy has, for one, driven the car unsupervised after her mother arrives at an interview, and has gone on to kiss several different boys, he becomes mad and very violent out of nowhere. That's his moment to shine; would his anger be so prominent and consuming if he had been home consistently? The only other main character is the mother, whose reckless behavior is almost as bad as her husband's absence. She becomes flirtatious at the office, even so far as to have sex with a co-worker not long after beginning to work there. After finding this out, Lucy can use this as bait to justify her actions rather than be awkwardly silent when he mother ridicules her for her behavior. The character's actions are one big, tangled cycle that only fuel and unintentionally elaborate on each others decisions.

As Cool as I Am asks a lot of questions and, in the end, quietly leaves the audience with deteriorating optimism that maybe Lucy will end up unsatisfied later in life, and at only fourteen, this idea likely hasn't crossed her mind. Writer Virginia Korus Spragg does a smooth job at developing the characters on the surface and subtly evoking commentary on the new generation of kids, many of whom likely to be raised by a more uncertain, rushed generation of people. I see another cycle coming along.

Starring: Claire Danes, James Marsden, and Sarah Bolger, and Jon Tenney. Directed by: Max Mayer.
Pretty depressing but very much worth watching & I highly recommend. If you like What Maisie Knew you will love this. I say B+8/10
"If memory is malleable then the future is too." Lucy is a sixteen year old girl who is too smart for her own good. She spends her free time learning how to cook and hanging out with her friend Kenny. Her mother (Danes) and father (Marsden) had her when they were young and not ready for that responsibility. Now with her dad gone all but 4 times a year and her mom acting like a kid herself Lucy is left to discover life for herself. This is a movie that again proves my point that a movie can be entertaining and worth watching involving great acting rather then special effects. This is a movie along the line of What Maisie Knew only involving an older child rather then a 6 year old. Parents that should not have been allowed to have children and a child who is more mature then the parents. You really root for Lucy the entire time and by the time the end come you feel extremely sorry for her as well as relief. That is a hard combination to achieve but that's what great writing and acting does. Overall, a great movie that is pretty depressing but I recommend this. I give it a B+.