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 "Brokeback   Mountain"

 "Get Rich or Die   Tryin' "

 "Elizabethtown"

 "Me and You And   Everyone We Know"

 "Thumbsucker"

 "The Matador"


 Oscar Eye Candy







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Thumbsucker

On the surface, "Thumbsucker" — the feature-film debut from video director/graphic artist Mike Mills — is a not-uncommon coming-of-age tale that traces a gawky teen's fumbling arc through high school, hormones and suburban hell.

But dig a bit deeper and you'll find a film bursting with complexities: Justin (the aforementioned teen, played by newcomer Lou Pucci, who later grew muscles and sprouted tattoos in Green Day's "Jesus of Suburbia" video) struggles to break an addiction to thumbsucking; his parents (portrayed with graceful restraint by Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio) struggle with their son and their marriage; Justin's orthodontist (Keanu Reeves in a surprisingly deft performance) struggles to apply the sagelike mysticism he spouts to his own life; and his high school mentor (a nebbishy Vince Vaughn) struggles with his own place in society.

"Thumbsucker" Trailer

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Through it all, the film maintains a dreamy, wrapped-in-gauze veneer — a heady, slo-mo vibe buoyed by a soundtrack that's equal parts shambling, joyous pop and bittersweet balladry. The work of Tim DeLaughter, the robed mastermind behind Texas psych-rockers the Polyphonic Spree (who actually took over the project after Elliott Smith committed suicide in 2003), the soundtrack is filled with trilling flutes, twinkling harps and mega-maxed choruses. But the dark diamonds here are three contributions from Smith: a pair of previously unearthed covers (Big Star's "Thirteen" and Cat Stevens' "Trouble," believed to be one of the last songs Smith ever recorded) and "Let's Get Lost" (which appeared on Smith's posthumous From a Basement on a Hill album). The songs — a shadowy musical cul-de-sac in the movie's gated community — provide a bleak counterpoint to DeLaughter's pop and remind us of a rare gift shared by both the film and Smith: namely, a willingness to embrace the dark cloud, rather than forever chasing the silver lining. — James Montgomery


NEXT: Ben Cosgrove on 'The Matador'
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Photos: Miramax/Focus Features/Paramount/Sony Classics/IFC/Samuel Goldwyn


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