2008 // USA // Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs // November 13, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Tivoli Theater)
The tale of a medical student who bumbles into a marijuana farming community, Humboldt County has all the ingredients for a sincere puff of humane drama, despite its at times condescending tone. The fairly ho-hum narrative arc never misses a beat, yet it's still a pleasure to watch it unfold. Credit Grodsky and Jacobs' nimble script, fine editing from Ed Marx, and Ernest Holzman's adaptive, sneakily effective camera work. Humboldt boasts some amazingly potent long shots, whose strength lies in the centrality of their human subjects and their lack of showiness. Brad Dourif and Frances Conroy deliver astonishing, husky performances far better than any indie coming-of-age drama should warrant. Grodsky and Jacobs are plainly striving for a tale of personal transformation, and on that score Humboldt never quite ripens. The problem lies in the mismatch between the film's aims and Jeremy Strong as protagonist Peter. Strong reads as a sort of older, broader, more wilted Michael Cera, and in another film his starched, stammering schlemiel routine might have been bitterly funny. Yet Peter's sheer anxious discomfort in his own skin is too pronounced in a role that needs a touch of melancholy despair and callous apathy.