' ' Cinema Romantico: The Age Of Reason

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Age Of Reason

There is a time in the life of every teenage boy, often on the precipice of adulthood, particularly if social interaction is limited, when angst and rage consumes him, and his outlets for its necessary release are scarce. Thus, he drives around and listens to loud music and talks back to his parents and breaks shit. He wants out but there is nowhere to go. Maybe with a little luck and motivation, he’ll fashion the first draft of a life plan, or at the very least find a way to make peace with his duress and simply put one foot in front of other. Maybe he'll find the courage to seek his dream. “The Age Of Reason”, directed with notable assurance by Andrew Schrader and Jordan Harris (they also wrote the script), is about a pair of teenage boys caught in that ancient state of adolescent limbo, and who come across less like best friends than two loners trapped in cookie cutter suburbia recognizing something of himself in the other, clambering toward self-actualization.

Set over the course of seventy-two hours, Friday to Sunday, evoking the youthful sensation that a weekend can feel like forever, we follow Oz (Myles Tufts) and Freddy (Blake Sheldon), the former without a mother and the latter without a father. Freddy, his appearance unkempt and grungy, accentuated by the fact that he literally digs around in trash, as if he figures that’s where he belongs, is without a father and filled with pent-up rage, stuffing food in his face in a desperate attempt to quell it. Oz, with his shaggy hair and blistering fastball, yearns to be the next Tim Lincecum. That daydream, however, runs aground on the bullishness of his father, Robert (Tom Sizemore), self-medicating with a bottle, and determined to prevent his son from ditching home for what he perceives as a fairytale Major League tryout in Nashville. Besides, how can Oz run away and leave his little sister (Avi Lake), outfitted in nearly every scene with a leotard in a bit of spot-on costume design, who is at the wondrous age where teenage agony seems so far away.

There is a girl too, Ruby (Megan Devine), because there always is, but don’t presume that she comes between the boys in a simplistic teenage love triangle, as it turns more on mere connection than any kind of popcorn love. Saddled with parental problems of her own, like an ornery stepfather whose attempts at connection are ill-advised, she recognizes something of herself in them, and inadvertently they form a sort of therapy group where rather than talk out their feelings they are willing to let each person exist on his or her own terms.

The recurring motif in “The Age Of Reason” is destruction; destruction of both a physical variety, whether it’s the opening sequence of Oz and Freddy bashing up a car or Freddy, in a weirdly hysterical moment, trashing the bike of a neighborhood kid for no reason whatsoever, and an emotional variety and the torment it yields which is emblemized in Oz’s broken down father. Ultimately their relationship becomes the film’s most crucial. He deters his son’s dreams not from spite but from a genuine fear that Oz’s brashness will lead him down the same dead-end road, oppression as a form of protection, which in its own way is as oddly admirable as it is it deplorable. And Sizemore, carving out subtle notes amidst the endless hangovers, strikes that difficult balance with a withering dignity.

The concept of baseball as saving grace could have been rote, a more lo-fi version of “The Rookie”, but baseball is merely the vessel by which the film explores the age when reality has begun beckoning even if we are not yet ready to relinquish our dreams. They say youth is wasted on the young but “The Age Of Reason” is about characters finding the conviction not to waste it any longer, to get out, to leave the old world behind, to see what a new one may have to offer, and to reach for the stars. Whether they latch onto them is of no consequence.

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