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Review: Rebellious teen looking for answers in sad/funny ‘Quitters’

Ben Konigsberg portrays Clark Rayman, who is trying to dodge his family's dysfunction, in the movie "Quitters."
(David Scardina / Momentum Pictures)

A disaffected teen’s dad isn’t too far off the mark when he calls him “a mean-spirited little …” in “Quitters,” an unapologetically candid, melancholic coming-of-age comedy from first-time filmmaker Noah Pritzker.

When his emotionally brittle, prescription drug-dependent mom (an effective Mira Sorvino) is finally committed to a Northern California rehab facility by his self-absorbed dad (Greg Germann), precocious Clark Rayman (Ben Konigsberg) dodges the family dysfunction by insinuating himself into the comparatively calmer home of his new girlfriend, Natalia (Morgan Turner), where he proceeds to wear out his welcome.

If Clark fails to reinvent the existence he thinks he’s searching for, he’s not alone in this keenly observed, utterly contemporary group portrait of disconnected individuals, both young and old, whose lives are on spiritual and emotional lockdown.

Though New York-born, San Francisco-raised Pritzker has no doubt based his characters on people he knew, his assured debut has an unmistakably East Coast sensibility. But even as you recognize echoes of Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach and Todd Solondz here, Pritzker has a good ear for authenticity, and he draws terrific performances from a cast that also includes Saffron Burrows as Turner’s guardedly hospitable mother and Kieran Culkin as an equally disconnected, meek English professor.

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The film’s success ultimately falls on the shoulders of relative newcomer Konigsberg, whose oddly affecting turn treads an extremely fine line between lost soul and manipulative brat. One false move and the audience might very well have seconded his dad’s decidedly non-nurturing, earlier assessment.

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‘Quitters’

MPAA rating: R, for sexual content, language, drug and alcohol use-mostly involving teens.

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Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills


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