The edgy coming-of-age tale "Ask Me Anything" begins with a snarky, bubble-gum vibe that gives way to something far deeper and meaningful. Writer-director Allison Burnett, who based the script on his 2009 novel, "Undiscovered Gyrl," masterfully immerses us into the life of a floundering teenager with often-stirring, unexpected results.
Katie Kampenfelt (Britt Robertson) is a brash, manipulative 17-year-old who decides to take a year off before going to college. To maintain at least some intellectual focus, she starts an anonymous blog in which she details her sexual exploits with her lunky boyfriend (Max Carver) and with an older, conflicted college professor (Justin Long). She also writes about her watchful mother (Molly Hagan), Mom's mustachioed boyfriend (Andy Buckley), hard-drinking dad (Robert Patrick), promiscuous BFF (Gia Mantegna), troubled new friend (Max Hoffman), soulful bookstore boss (Martin Sheen) and others to a swelling virtual audience.
But when Katie begins a new job as an improbable nanny to upscale couple Margaret (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and Paul (Christian Slater, a standout), a sobering series of events causes her to reconsider a damaging childhood episode, the way she's been living of late and how she's been treating others. Her change from cavalier brat to sympathetic adult-to-be proves surprisingly credible, especially for someone who at first prompts zero goodwill.
Although the many life truths Katie comes to learn, particularly from the film's various grown-ups, may not seem exceedingly profound to post-teen viewers, they deftly fit together to complete an incisive character puzzle. It's all beautifully paid off in the movie's haunting coda.
"Ask Me Anything"
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.