Thumbsucker (2005)



Critic Consensus: Though quirky coming-of-age themes are common in indie films, this one boasts a smart script and a great cast.

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Movie Info

Dubbed "the King Kong of oral obsessives" by his hippie dentist, Justin Cobb is a 16-year-old desperate to find a way to break this embarrassing habit he has retained since infancy. His father, a former football star, tries to help by providing an antidotal cayenne-pepper cream and a healthy dose of fly-fishing. His mother, who works as a nurse helping the rich and famous sober up, seems more concerned with a fantasy romantic relationship with TV-star Don Johnson than with her son's problems. Hypnosis seems to work, but the problem surfaces in other forms from drug addiction to alcoholism.
R (for drug/alcohol use and sexuality involving teens, language and a disturbing image.)
Art House & International , Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
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Lou Taylor Pucci
as Justin Cobb
Tilda Swinton
as Audrey Cobb
Vincent D'Onofrio
as Mike Cobb
Vince Vaughn
as Mr. Geary
Keanu Reeves
as Dr. Perry Lyman
Kelli Garner
as Rebecca
Benjamin Bratt
as Matt Schramm
Chase Offerle
as Joel Cobb
Colton Vaughan Evans
as 10-year-old Justin
Patrick Chu
as Debater
Ted Beckman
as Stone Guy
Arvin V. Entena
as Perry Lyman's Assistant
Tyler Gannon
as Stoner Chick
Allen Go
as Biology Teacher
Walter Kim
as Debate Judge
Kit Koenig
as Principal
Sarah Lucht
as English Teacher
Nancy O'Dell
as Herself
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Critic Reviews for Thumbsucker

All Critics (113) | Top Critics (31)

Unlike so many movies in which a character changes in order to propel the plot forward, this one stops to follow up on the consequences of those changes.

December 8, 2005
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

A tender but glib coming-of-age journey.

Full Review… | October 7, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

So no one would argue that Thumbsucker sucks. But the thing does seem just so indie-movie familiar.

Full Review… | October 7, 2005
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Mills, who hails from the world of music videos and TV commercials, has surrounded Pucci with a superlative group of actors, all of whom are in tune with his quiet, low-key approach to humor.

September 30, 2005
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Brave, funny leap into the abyss of adolescence.

September 30, 2005
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Mills makes his debut in impressive fashion, which means he finds a nice tone with which to take us on this familiar but ultimately rewarding ride.

September 30, 2005
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Thumbsucker


Nowhere near as good as Mike Mills' follow up, Beginners, but Thumbsucker definitely plants the seeds of a budding auteur

Jonathan Hutchings
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer


"You are not alone. You are not afraid. You don't need your thumb, and your thumb doesn't need you." Justin throws himself and everyone around him into chaos when he attempts to break free from his addiction to his thumb.

Thumbsucker is the film that we nearly didn't get to see. First time director Mike Mills had Elliot Smith on board to do the soundtrack and after he committed suicide, the director shelved the project. It wasn't until Mills saw The Polyphonic Spree and met Tim the lead singer that he saw a way to let the film see the light of day. So here with a brilliant soundtrack by both the Spree and Smith is a quietly subtle take on the life of a disenfranchised teenager and his diagnosis of attention deficit disorder due to his lack of energy and still sucking his thumb at his age. What unfolds is a beautiful tale of inspiration and aspirations in the minds of humans of all ages from teachers to dentists, mothers to drug addicts. Shot not unlike Solondz 'Palindromes' or Gondry's 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' it is at times touching and funny. Keanu Reeves is particularly funny as the hippie health freak but elsewhere all the performances are good. If you like little films with little messages then you'll love this movie. A subtle look at life through the eyes of the array of characters portrayed. Music video director Mills has produced a cracking debut and on the strength of this should go on to greater things, not unlike the thumb sucking central character in this film.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

A young man, who occasionally still sucks his thumb, navigates adolescence, occasionally finding solace in a new love, an ADD diagnosis, and success in debate club. I simply have no idea what this film is about. I understand the plot of course, but what this film is saying about adolescence or parenting or the over-medication of today's youth is still a mystery to me. One reviewer remarked that unlike other coming-of-age films, this film tracks the effect of the adjustments adolescents make along the way. I find this comment both insightful and perplexing. It is true that the film denies its character easy solutions, but the ending implies that the ultimate answer lies in escape, independence, and time, all of which amount to, in my mind, an easy solution. Is the film simply saying that yes, adolescence is difficult, but it eventually ends? I don't know. Overall, I think there's something interesting going on here, but it's escaped me.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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