Thursday, September 19, 2013

Movie with Abe: C.O.G.

Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Released September 20, 2013

Having an acronym in a film's title seems to indicate that the film in question is about a number of things that necessitate truncating to be appropriately described. That's not the case with "C.O.G.,” the new film based on a David Sedaris story, which follows a young man named Samuel who gives up his worldly possessions to go work on an apple farm in Oregon to better experience other parts of life. Samuel’s soul-searching is aimless at best, as is the film as a whole.

The title is invoked early in the film, when Samuel walks by a man named John (Denis O'Hare), who is promoting Christianity on the street, shortly after arriving into town. The acronym's meaning is not difficult to deduce, but its unveiling, which comes late in the film, is done in a way that makes it seem cathartic. Unsurprisingly, Samuel’s Yale sweater and intellectual attitude do not make him popular among the working class, and Samuel soon must turn to the proselytizer to help him find a certain type of salvation.

Jonathan Groff has made a name for himself on Broadway, but will also be familiar to television audiences for his roles on "Glee" and "Boss." Those parts recommend him well to play Samuel, who is first seen being unfriendly and miserable on his endless bus ride to Oregon. There's something to be said for the transformation Samuel undergoes over the course of the film, but Groff still isn't entirely likeable. The more compelling performances come from O'Hare as the temperamental John, who wields his Christian knowledge as a weapon and has considerable trouble controlling his temper, and Corey Stoll as a new friend of Samuel’s with ulterior motives.

This is not a warm or inviting film, and it’s difficult to acclimate to and sympathize with the characters. Sedaris is an author known for his humor, but there is little to laugh about here. Unsure whether it means to be a road movie or a more introspective look at one man grounded temporarily in one place, “C.O.G.” never quite knows what it wants to be and how it wants to execute it. There are moments at which the achievement of some greater purpose or the ascension to a next level seems imminent, but “C.O.G.” just never gets there, stuck in wanting to be an affecting drama without possessing any of the necessary elements.


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