Newcomer Craig Roberts takes at least a pound and a half of inspiration from Bud Cort's romantically inclined misfit in Harold and Maude for his defiantly humorous portrayal of the 15-year-old Oliver Tate. However derivative of Catcher in the Rye Joe Dunthorne's source novel might be, screenwriter/director Richard Ayoade spins it into cinematic gold. Here is a refreshing coming-of-age movie that knows where to pull punches and where to let fly.
The virgin-breaking action takes place in the windswept landscape of Swansea, Wales. Crucial to the film's success is Yasime Paige as Oliver's poker-faced precocious object of teen desire, Jordana. Like Oliver, Jordana has problematic parents. Her sick mother is tapping gently on death's door. Oliver's oddball folks (wonderfully played by Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) haven't had sex in ages. Wifey is being led astray by Paddy Considine's new-age guru Graham, who recently moved in to a house next door.
Oliver's ongoing pithy inner monologue of quips about his flirtation with eccentric habits and off-center observations is the product of an overactive intellect matched only by his libido. Jordana effortlessly matches him in both departments. She is just as hyper-verbal as he is. Fast-twitch dry wit never seemed so natural.
The filmmakers maintain a tantalizing tone of tongue-in-cheek affectation without giving into the saturation of irony on display. Erik Wilson's sumptuous cinematography registers filmic delight in every frame. There's real tenderness here. Grade: A-
Opens July 8. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.