4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
More High School Quirk--A Nice Central Relationship Distinguishes This Coming-Of-Age Saga,
This review is from: Just Peck (DVD)
In the endless parade of quirky high school coming-of-age stories, I'm not sure that "Just Peck" really stands out as a unique offering in this overworked genre. It has some charm, to be sure, with likable actors and amusing situations. But, at times, this slight story wishes to present itself as something far darker and far edgier than it actually is. Still, if you like this sort of entertainment--"Just Peck" is a solid enough proposition. I wished that it had dug a little deeper into the character psyches for there was the potential for this to be a richly unique experience. But every time the movie approached a potent realness, the screenplay backed off into more conventional comic mischief. It's hard, however, not to be amused by the film's underlying sweetness, gentle comic tone, and blissful awkwardness. While I've long maintained that quirk is the curse of modern independent cinema, there is enough heart to make this effective on its own terms.
Keir Gilchrist plays the titular character Michael Peck. If you guessed that he was a lovable misfit trying to find his place in the world--you got it on the nose! This high school sophomore has it rough. His parents (Adam Arkin and Marcia Cross) are overbearing, can you believe it? In the delightful unreality of "quirky central," they expect their son to reach the high ideals and ambitions that have made them successful by doing things like signing contracts and initiating Power Point presentations at home. It's brutal! He becomes enamored of an older and troubled bad girl (Brie Larson) and seeks to impress her with a science fair project he's been coerced into designing. Gilchrist seems to miss that his dream girl is a complete mess with bouts of anger, isolationism, and depression--but who doesn't have issues? The tentative romance/friendship is perhaps the strongest and most surprising element in the film and is, ultimately, what makes this narrative effective.
"Just Peck" exists in the patently quirky suburban world in which everything at his gorgeously kept school is made to be laughed at. I know a few people who would think this school downright palatial and Peck's problems pretty darn insignificant. But it is what it is. Arkin and Cross have some nice comedic moments, but the show belongs to Gilchrist. It was a bit creepy to see him pine after Larson as they played brother in sister for three seasons of Showtime's "United States of Tara," but that's not a concern that most viewers will share. Amidst all the contrived wackiness (and the film's pacing even keeps true outrageousness at arm's length), there is a central drama that is quite appealing. About 3 1/2 stars due to an uneven tone, I'll round up for Gilchrist and Larson. KGHarris, 8/11.