Magazine article Screen International

C.O.G

Magazine article Screen International

C.O.G

Article excerpt

Dir: Kyle Patrick Alvarez. US. 2013. 89mins

A compassionate light drama about the uneven path we all must take on the road to self-discovery, C.O.G. offers one lovely, heartfelt scene after another. Based on an essay by humourist David Sedaris about a trip to Oregon he took in his youth to escape his real life for a little while, this second film from writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Easier With Practice) is almost miraculously kind to all its characters, suggesting that everyone's search for happiness is as important as everyone else's.

The film's centrepiece performance belongs to O'Hare. Long a celebrated character actor in movies and television, he gets one of his best-ever roles as the deeply complicated Jon.

Playing in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance, C.O.G. will receive a boost from fans of Sedaris. (This is the first of the author's works to be adapted for the screen.) The movie doesn't have any marquee names, but strong reviews should make this a very attractive prospect for the art houses.

C.O.G. stars Jonathan Groff as David, who has just finished graduate school on the East Coast and decided to get away from it all, for reasons that only vaguely become clear to us. (It appears that one of the factors might be his parents' unhappiness with his homosexuality.) After a long bus ride, David finds himself in Oregon, going by the name Samuel and doing manual labour in an apple orchard. Soon, though, he becomes entangled in the lives of others in the small town, including a smitten co-worker (Corey Stoll) and a born-again Gulf War vet named Jon (Denis O'Hare) who takes Samuel under his wing, unaware of the young man's sexuality while trying to convert him to Christianity.

When first we meet Samuel, we wonder if C.O.G. will be a fish-out-of-water comedy in which our preppy, sharp-tongued atheist hero clashes with the gruff, down-to-earth locals. Thankfully, that isn't what happens. Instead, Alvarez paints Samuel as a cocky fellow whose veneer of coolness hides a lot of insecurities. Likewise, the people that Samuel meets along the way are never quite what we expect. C.O.G. has the courtesy to treat each of these characters as more than just signposts along the way of Samuel's journey but, instead, as individuals struggling with their own doubts. …

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