Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Trailer For 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Brings Two Comic Book Legends Together Watch: First Trailer For 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Brings Two Comic Book Legends Together Martin Scorsese's List Of 85 Must-See Films Martin Scorsese's List Of 85 Must-See Films The 10 Best & 5 Worst Cannes Film Festival Openers Ever The 10 Best & 5 Worst Cannes Film Festival Openers Ever The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: David Sedaris Short Story Adaptation 'C.O.G.' Features Fine Performances But Might Work Better As An HBO Series

Photo of Cory Everett By Cory Everett | @modage September 17, 2013 at 7:01PM

Based on an essay in “Naked,” David Sedaris' hugely popular collection of autobiographical short stories, “C.O.G.” is notable for being the very first film adaptation of the author's work. Though he’d previously turned down all other offers to adapt his stories, the essayist was impressed by writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s pitch as well as his previous film “Easier With Practice” and decided to let him have a shot. Whether this adaptation is successful or not may depend on your familiarity with the source material. While some have found the film to be a bit of a letdown, as someone mostly unfamiliar with Sedaris’ writing, I found it to be a sharp and well-made, if a bit of an episodic dramedy. The film opens with Ivy League college grad David (Jonathan Groff) setting off across the country. As an aspiring writer, David assumes he must accumulate some kind of rugged life experiences and so he’s decided to spend the summer working on an apple orchard in Oregon (an idea perhaps foolishly borne out of reading “The Grapes Of Wrath”).
0
C.O.G.

Based on an essay in “Naked,” David Sedaris' hugely popular collection of autobiographical short stories, “C.O.G.” is notable for being the very first film adaptation of the author's work. Though he’d previously turned down all other offers to adapt his stories, the essayist was impressed by writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s pitch as well as his previous film “Easier With Practice” and decided to let him have a shot. Whether this adaptation is successful or not may depend on your familiarity with the source material. While some have found the film to be a bit of a letdown, as someone mostly unfamiliar with Sedaris’ writing, I found it to be a sharp and well-made, if a bit of an episodic dramedy. The film opens with Ivy League college grad David (Jonathan Groff) setting off across the country. As an aspiring writer, David assumes he must accumulate some kind of rugged life experiences and so he’s decided to spend the summer working on an apple orchard in Oregon (an idea perhaps foolishly borne out of reading “The Grapes Of Wrath”).

He even picks out a different name, Samuel (likely after author Samuel Beckett), but once he arrives in Oregon, his romantic notions of a hard day's work come colliding with the reality of what that actually entails. (For starters, there are no reading breaks because you’re tired.) Crotchety orchard owner Hobbs (Dean Stockwell) agrees to take him on for the summer and soon Samuel’s pearly white sweater is covered in the dirt that comes from physical labor. In the many long days to follow he finds that he's mostly keeping to himself, as he has no way to communicate with his mostly Spanish-speaking co-workers. (He'd learned Japanese instead). After his best friend Jennifer (Troian Bellisario) bails on joining him, it becomes clear that Samuel is avoiding something other than his real name. At the end of the summer, he decides to stay on indefinitely, getting a job at the local factory that processes the apples. This turns out somehow to be even less glamorous than it sounds and winter in Oregon becomes especially lonely.

C.O.G. 2

Though the hardened factory workers have taken to calling him “Einstein,” he finally meets someone he can connect to, a handsome forklift driver named Curly (Corey Stoll) with whom he strikes up a flirtation. Though David’s/Samuel’s sexuality hadn’t been made explicit—it’s not clear if he is aware of his homosexuality at this point or if this is where his realization occurs—things move a little too quickly for him and he ends up skipping town where he meets up with war vet and born-again Christian, Jon (Denis O’Hare).

As an atheist and pragmatist, Samuel doesn’t think Jon has much to offer him, but eventually becomes so worn down by his experiences that religion starts to appeal to him. Jon calls himself a C.O.G. (child of God) and his initially sunny disposition masks some serious anger issues which manifest themselves in outbursts of cruelty at anyone in his path. Jon acts as a mentor Samuel, taking him under his wing and teaching him “the only skill he has,” making very heavy Oregon-shaped clocks out of slates of jade, but it becomes a matter of time before one of his outbursts will finally cast Samuel out on his own.

C.O.G.

Though Groff is a veteran of the stage (he was nominated for a Tony for his performance in “Spring Awakening”) and small screen (“Glee”), this is the first time he’s been asked to carry a feature. Looking like a young Cary Elwes, Groff does a remarkable job leading the film and appears in virtually every scene, giving one of the finest performances we saw at Sundance this year. His character undergoes a subtle transformation over the course of the film. Initially he’s kind of a snot (though an extremely quick witted, unaware one), but as he’s broken down, his character goes to some pretty emotional places. After coming to greater attention recently with recurring roles on “American Horror Story,” “True Blood” and “The Good Wife,” character actor O’Hare is unsurprisingly great here as the wounded believer.

Though it begins as a droll comedy, the score is made up of rhythmic handclaps, and Samuel’s asides seem torn from Sedaris’ writing—things do take some dark turns as the story progresses. (One scene where Curly tracks down Samuel later in the film is particularly uncomfortable.) If adapted faithfully, these detours are unavoidable but they do make the film unexpectedly unpleasant for stretches of the third act. Due to the episodic nature of the story, it begins to feel a bit long despite being just 90 minutes, and you can’t help but wonder if it might’ve have been more successful as the first three episodes of a new HBO series. As a long-form adaptation of Sedaris’ work, I have no doubt that writer/director Alvarez would be the right choice to shepherd the material, but as a standalone feature, it feels like there’s not quite enough there. Despite some good performances and sharp screenplay, “C.O.G.,” like its lead character, seems stuck in the space between. [B-]

This is a reprint of our review from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Corey Stoll


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates