Movie Review: Humboldt County
By Maureen M. Hart, Tribune Reporter
Be prepared: "Humboldt County" is a slow starter. But what appears to be the cliched "uptight nerd liberated by flighty sprite" tale - done better in films from "Bringing Up Baby" to "Barefoot in the Park" - evolves into something deeper, darker, more resonant.
Peter (Jeremy Strong) is a UCLA med student with a marked dearth of people skills, so much so that his rigid professor/doctor/father (Peter Bogdanovich) flunks him, blocking his chance at a prestigious residency. Dazed, he lets himself be hijacked by freewheeling jazz singer Bogart (Fairuza Balk), who drives him up to her family's place on California's "Lost Coast," the northern redwood forests where people live off the grid and on the cash crop marijuana. Brad Dourif and Frances Conroy play the heads of Bogart's hippie-ish household, which also includes young Charity (Madison Davenport) and sometimes includes Charity's father, Max (Chris Messina).
Like Peter, Max is also in the family business, rebelling against his father's small farmer-modest profit ethos that's designed to keep the feds off their backs, and the two men bond in ways that change them both. That Peter gets Stockholm-syndromed up there is no surprise (lots and lots of pot is smoked), but the emotional wrinkles found in the back stories of the adult characters (and deftly acted by the lot) make the trip to "Humboldt County" worth taking.
MPAA rating: R (for drug content and language throughout).
Running time: 1:37.
Opening: Friday at the Wilmette Theatre.
Starring: Jeremy Strong (Peter); Fairuza Balk (Bogart); Peter Bogdanovich (Prof. Hadley); Frances Conroy (Rosie); Brad Dourif (Jack); Chris Messina (Max); Madison Davenport (Charity).
Written and directed by Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs; photographed by Ernest Holzman; edited by Ed Marx; music by iZLER; production design by Freddy Naff; produced by Jason Weiss. A Magnolia Pictures release.