Review: ‘C.O.G.’ a patronizing washout for David Sedaris fans
It’s no small achievement that “C.O.G.” is the first movie adaptation of a David Sedaris piece (one from his book “Naked”), since the bestselling essayist-memoirist has been notoriously reluctant to have his work translated to the screen.
The bummer is that writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s film is smug and flat, a checklist of awkward moments mostly devoid of the trippy emotional satire inherent in Sedaris’ writing. Jonathan Groff is eyes wide open as David, a condescension-laced college kid working on an Oregon apple farm for the summer to fulfill a deluded intellectual desire to connect with real people and the earth. Instead, like a boot-camp recruit in the land of rural oddballs, his sense of identity is upended after befriending a gregarious forklift operator (Corey Stoll), then falling under the sway of an evangelical hobbyist (Denis O’Hare).
The trouble is it’s difficult to view David’s coming-of-age journey as anything but a chilly class-conscious comeuppance, since Alvarez emphasizes situational weirdness over the meaning behind lost souls negotiating connective spaces. (The indie-posturing hand-clap soundtrack doesn’t help.) That isn’t to say that Stoll and O’Hare don’t put in overtime, effortlessly suggesting deep wells of compartmentalized, pathological loneliness. Groff’s David, unfortunately, comes off like a sidekick in his own story. For Sedaris fans, “C.O.G.” is a regrettably patronizing washout.
“C.O.G.” Rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, Los Angeles. Also on VOD.
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