Short Term 12

October, 2013, Drama

 

Writer Director Destin Cretton must feel like a marathon competitor as his first feature film makes its debut; it began life as an award winning script 3 years ago, then went through a period of gestation as a short before finally making its appearance as a full-length feature. Working with a cast of young Hollywood faces already familiar to the under 30-set via various T.V. series, this examination of teen-age lives in a supervised, court-ordered group home pairs sharply-observant dialogue with shop-worn stories of abuse, abandonment and addiction which display the talents of its cast and the skills of its creator without adding anything substantive to the issues involved.

 Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) are thirty something social workers who head the staff of a halfway house for troubled adolescents. As the various stories of their often foul-mouthed charges unfold, Grace and Mason battle their own demons in building a permanent relationship so they can raise the baby they’re about to bring into the world.

 Cretton has a gifted ear for the chatter these wards of the state use with (and on) each other but the characters’ backgrounds are so sketchy that the motivations for their anti-social conduct remain muddled and formulaic. While the characters are wonderfully cast and well acted, the movie doesn’t rise above the level of a solid made-for-television movie.

 The Verdict? Familiar turf, explored with spirited performances but generating very little substance.  

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