Films about dysfunctional families are a dime a dozen. But As Cool As I Am avoids the typical saccharine traps of those made-for-Lifetime movies, giving an honest portrayal of a teenage girl, Lucy (The Tudors' Sarah Bolger) who’s had to be the adult in the family. Seasonal lumberjack dad (James Marsden) is only home four times a year but runs away the moment he’s needed, and adulterous mom (Claire Danes) seeks to regain the carefree, conquest-filled life she never had when she got pregnant at 17. Lucy seeks refuge in famed chef Mario Batali and cooking as well as her best friend, Kenny, but these influences can only be so effective in keeping the adolescent impulses at bay—partying, exploring her sexuality. At times, the film wanders as aimlessly as its characters, which is exemplified by mom Lainee’s weepy explanation of why she’s about to abandon her daughter: “Because we never do anything!” Lucy’s growing realization that her family is not as idyllic as she once believed never builds to much feeling or reaction—until the last moments. As with director Max Mayer’s previous film, Adam, we are only given a glimpse of change or hope coming on the horizon in its final scenes. But up until then, any façade of transformation is temporary and reversible—to be fair, just as it often is in the unfortunate reality of a broken home. The empty promises and repeated mistakes are both understandable yet frustrating, leaving us feeling as lost and disheartened as Lucy. However, this bit of truth seems more inadvertent than intended.
Max MayerClaire Danes, Jeremy Sisto, James Marsden, Peter Fonda, Sarah Bolger, Anika Noni Rose, Jon Tenney, Rhys Coiro, Alanis MorissetteVirginia Korus SpraggAs Cool Inc.