What is the meaning of life? Based on the book by Walter Kirn, the new film Thumbsucker tries, but fails, to provide an answer to this often-asked question. The plot: Lou Pucci stars as Justin, a poster boy for teen angst. He sits in the bathroom during his lunch breaks and pines for the pretty girl on the debate team. Justin's parents (Tilda Swinton and Vincent D'Onofrio) think that these problems all have an underlying cause: his thumb-sucking.

However, it is not thumb-sucking that causes Justin's problems, but rather the instability and depression of the people who surround him. Justin's father is unable to deal with the injury that cut short his dream of becoming a professional athlete; his mother is painfully lonely; his teacher (Vince Vaughn) buys alcohol for Justin and three teenage girls and provides them with a hotel room; and his orthodontist (Keanu Reeves) plays child therapist, to no avail. Deciding that all these people just cannot help him, Justin uses drugs, sex and rebellion as temporary solutions to his problems.

Thumbsucker rambles along with lofty aspirations but never finds the answers to how people should live their lives. In the end, the film contents itself with being inconclusive, as if this were something new and profound; "The trick is living without an answer...I think," muses Reeves' character. Writer-director Mike Mills gets points for the sly humor and solid performances, but they're not enough to save the film -- ultimately, the audience is insulted by Thumbsucker, not enlightened.


All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.