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Saturday, March 26, 2016

James White

James White is a well-done indie from Josh Mond that explores what may be an uncomfortable subject for most people--those horrible years after college when we have to grow up and become adults. Throw in a mother with stage IV cancer, and well, this poor guy has it tough.

That being said, the title character, played very well by Christopher Abbott, is a prick. Every time we start to feel for him he does something else awful. In essence, this film is 90 minutes with a guy most of us would shy away from at a party. As such, it makes the film problematic to process.

It's long been a debate in film and literature--does the lead character need to be likeable? No, of course not, but he or she should be understandable, and this is where Mond's work is so great. Abbott is kind of a spoiled brat who grew up with a single mother (Cynthia Nixon).He's now in what looks like his early twenties (no college is mentioned), unemployed, and sleeping on his mom's couch. But, he is taking care of her. But, he also uses that as an excuse for being a slacker.

The film opens with Abbott's father's funeral. He is surprised to find out his father remarried. He is reunited with an old friend, and accompanies him to Mexico to try to figure things out. He meets a high school girl, and they become a couple (they both live in New York City) but he has no problems cheating on her. He is also prone to drink too much and get in barroom brawls.

Much of the film is shot in close-up of Abbott, so he is the center of the universe (which he sort of thinks of himself as). He is frequently haggard, and a scene in which an old friend (Ron Livingston) gives him a courtesy interview at New York magazine is harrowing. Even if you're a writer you don't wear a t-shirt to an interview, even if you are friends with the boss.

I admired James White but I must admit it's a real downer. I would like to see more films from Mond, and other roles by Abbott.

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