East Village Ennui: Coming of Age Story Displaced, Too Hip For Own Good
A coming of age narrative comprised of the familiar: teen angst, frustration, and ennui–all elements of a universal rite of passage, under the direction of married duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, Ten Thousand Saints is visually glossy and star-studded adaptation of Eleanor Henderson’s 2011 book. Firmly reassured by its star power, the film’s strength originates from the leading performances which ultimately take reign over the underwhelming narrative stretched beyond its capabilities.
Typical adolescents Jude (Asa Butterfield) and best friend Teddy (Avan Jogia) seek out drugs, alcohol, and punk rock in order to temper their hormones, confusion, and anger. After an encounter with his step-sister Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), Jude finds himself reconnecting with his father Les (Ethan Hawke) when he moves to the spellbinding New York City. There he seeks out his own idea of freedom and redemption, tracking down Teddy’s half-brother Johnny (Emile Hirsch) who leads a hermetic life and abides by the straight-edge agenda. When Eliza finds out that she’s pregnant, they band together as a makeshift family as their backdrop becomes frenzied with chaos and uncertainty.
From the onset, the charisma of the actors is palpable. Steinfeld and Butterfield pair well on screen as their youthful chagrins and bouts of rebellion are adeptly balanced with their ability to embrace without foresight. Their performances coupled with Hawke’s comedic delivery as a deadbeat marijuana-growing-dad with a heart of gold and the right intentions carry. Their reliance on one another a sweet reminder that the adults don’t have it figured out either and that the whole grand scheme of life is a constant unknown.
Berman and Pulcini clearly had a great deal of different elements to cipher through. Its first act resonates with a loud bang but by the time Ten Thousand Saints makes its way towards the last half of the second act, the story has already crossed the line of exhaustion. Instead, the narrative is swallowed up by the unsteady backdrop in its own desire to stand out to the point where the stakes are diminished and the characters’ problems more of an echo than a driving force. Like the older brother with street credibility and a driver’s license, it encapsulates a crisp coolness that leaves a heady impression, its overconfidence both involving and frustrating.
Reviewed on January 25th at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival – Premieres Programme. 107 Mins.