Noah Pritzker, a San Fransisco-based director who initially surfaced at SXSW ’12 with his film Little Dad, takes center stage again this year with his feature-length drama Quitters, exploring the awkwardness of navigating a dysfunctional family life as a teenager.
The movie, starring actors Kara Hayward (Moonrise Kingdom), Mira Sorvino (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion), Greg Germann (NCIS, Alley McBeal), and Kieran Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), follows misfit teen Clark (Benjamin Konigsberg) as he is both a victim and a catalyst of dysfunction in his parent’s lives. He roams between relationships in search for a better version of a family, sometimes comically but mostly uncomfortably, and in the meantime alienates himself from the very love he craves.
Quitters is equal parts a comedy and a drama, just as Clark is meant to be both a sympathetic character and- as the director describes it -“a jerk”…but the balancing act between such complex subtext is a little too difficult for the film at times. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen several SXSW movies based on the concept of cinéma vérité (the idea that the action on screen is “truthful”, almost like a documentary), but the movie appears contrived despite the actors’ admirable performances.
Clark quickly reveals himself to be a manipulative, and imposing character, and although he is a perceptive teenager who is struggling to find footing, he is ultimately an unlikeable nuisance wherever he goes. Konisbger describes his role as “someone who is ignorant of his own actions” and “emotionally intrusive”, and while the actor (along with the noteworthy performances of Turner and Germann) captures the contradictory aspects of his character, the movie fails to truly convey an understanding of him.
The plot covers the overlapping dysfunction of several people involved in various degrees of broken families, but has a tendency to distract itself from story to story versus tie them all together thematically. All in all, Pritzker created an acceptable movie with Quitters, but its fate is questionable as a home run with the crowd.