In his second feature film, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez brings to Sundance a film adaptation of C.O.G by David Sedaris. Based on Sedaris’ experiences as a young man rebelling against his bourgeois lifestyle and searching for a “real” experience, C.O.G. is a compelling and relatable story about naiveté and reality. With a spectacular breakout performance by Jonathan Groff, this film is a Sundance U.S. Dramatic Award waiting to happen.

The Players:

  • Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
  • Screenwriter(s): Kyle Patrick Alvarez, based on the story by David Sedaris
  • Cinematographer(s): Jas Shelton
  • Starring: Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, Casey Wilson, Troian Bellisario

Synopsis:

After grad school, David looks forward to working on an apple orchard in Oregon with his best friend Jennifer, but ends up working solo when she backs out on the trip. The young, witty, and over-educated traveler encounters some interesting characters along the way, all who impart on him life lessons that are somewhat harsher and less romantic than he had hoped.

The Good:

Jonathan Groff really nailed David Sedaris’ arrogant, oblivious and entitled character (who wasn’t arrogant at 24?). Groff will be someone to watch going forward. As a huge Sedaris fan, I was also pleased by the translation from text to film in this piece, which I think did proper justice to the sarcasm and wit Sedaris is known for. The film is also intensely emotional, easily drawing me in to invest in David’s predicament. I hope this film is a sign of what’s to come from both Sedaris (more film adaptations, please!) and from Groff.

The Bad:

Though I’m not of this opinion, I could see how some might be frustrated by the lack of open catharsis at the end of this story. David has his worldview torn apart, replaced with another, and torn apart again, and never has a moment of verbal retribution upon those who effectively betrayed him.

Overall:

Sedaris fans will be happy with this film. It does justice to the tone of the essay on which it is based and has excellent performances by Groff, Denis O’Hare, and the rest of the cast. It manages to be funny, scary, somber, and hopeful in a way that feels effortless. Sedaris is a natural storyteller – this film is an excellent reflection of that talent.

Rating: 8/10