Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
A cocky young man travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm. Out of his element, he finds his lifestyle and notions being picked apart by everyone who crosses his path.
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★★★½ review by Andy Ferguson on Letterboxd
I am almost completely unfamiliar with the writings of David Sedaris, and most certainly did not know anything about the essay of which this film is based upon. I couldn't watch the film with a judgmental eye comparing it to the source material, so I think that might have been a good reason why I was able to enjoy the film.
As the opening moments faded in, I was a little worried that C.O.G. was going to quickly annoy me. There are little snippets of conversation as the main character goes through many different passengers sitting next to him on a bus ride to Oregon, and they are all linked together with a snapping, repetitious little jingle of musical score that distracts more than compliments. I was definitely put off by the first few minutes, but it wasn't long after that many of the elements of the film began to win me over. I've never seen Glee, outside of a trial minute or two that I could barely make it through, so I had never really been properly introduced to actor Jonathan Groff before seeing this film. I found out later that he had small roles in films like Taking Woodstock and The Conspirator, but I don't recall him in either. He sinks nicely right into the main role, playing the slightly arrogant Yale grad who decides to "take some time off" from his scholarly existence and disappear into the land of the apple orchard in the Pacific Northwest.
The journey he takes throughout the film is filled with tiny bits of bizarre interactions with the locals of these personally uncharted areas of the country for him. Actors such as Corey Stoll and Denis O'Hare fill out the weird Sedaris creations quite perfectly. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez has a nice modest demeanor to his work, which I found pleasing to watch. Go into this expecting to embrace strange encounters for its main character in a virtually foreign land, and I suspect you'll find something you like.
★★★½ review by The Moviejerk on Letterboxd
This witty and withering misanthropic comedy lays all the spades going in its favour in the first half, where a cynical antihero embarks on a comically dead-pan detour into Oregon to slave in an apple farm, encountering a panoply of sad-sack characters to run away from. Kyle Patrick Alvarez conjures a razor-sharp script from a David Sedaris essay, deftly balancing observational comedy and character-driven drama that's constantly hilarious and unexpectedly insightful. But it's an utter shame when C.O.G. (standing for Child of God) recedes to tedium and coming-of-age conventions via Christian camp America, detailing a story that feels half-baked. Nonetheless, it's worth checking out for Jonathan Groff (he of HBO's Looking fame), who gets to shoulder an entire film with charm and effortlessness, and Corey Stoll, who pops up with a rib-tickling, scene-stealing cameo, replete with his character's vast collection of butt-plugs and dildos.
★★★½ review by Mitch F. Anderson on Letterboxd
Has some great moments (the first and last five minutes in particular), a great lead performance by Jonathan Groff, and a great soundtrack/score, but kind of settles into the unremarkable groove of an "I just gotta find myself" story. Retells David Sedaris' story while missing many of the things that make Sedaris' storytelling work as well as it does.
★★★★½ review by liz on Letterboxd
jonathan groff HOOOOO boy
★★★½ review by Jon_Kissel on Letterboxd
The aimless-young-man indie gets a solid entry in Kyle Patrick Alvarez's C.O.G. Based on a series of autobiographical short stories by humorist David Sedaris, the film follows a fresh Ivy League grad immersing himself in the blue collar world of small-town Oregon. Jonathan Groff stars as the Sedaris stand-in Samuel, a smug and largely clueless guy introduced telling an evangelizing stranger that religion is for people trying to distract themselves from their meaninglessness. Samuel is trying to do much the same thing, initially without religion, though he eventually gives that a try, too.
The standard finding-oneself arc is largely discarded in favor of a series of interactions and anecdotes. Despite the lack of structure, each scene is well-realized with a feeling of truth, like one character's extremely specific homophobia or Samuel finding out why a worker shouldn't eat apples off the assembly line. The unifying thread might be that Samuel's position in the world, as a white male with acceptable social skills, allows him greater opportunity without him having to do anything at all. He might not show much aptitude for the jobs he takes, but by superficially being like his bosses, he gets noticed and singled out for advancement and amenities.
C.O.G. has the benefit of originating in the singular mind of Sedaris, and Alvarez is able to take that gift and run with it. In his debut, he makes an impression as a stylish up-and-comer with several fun montages and strong incorporation of Joe Barry and Steve Reich's minimalist score. He also gets effective performances out of his actors, especially Groff, Casey Wilson's kind and genuine character, and Denis O'Hare's irascible evangelical. A little more structure and a little less opacity might've helped, but as is, C.O.G. gets by on instances. B-
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