Absent fathers create broken families. It’s not always that simple, but that seems to be the real message of As Cool As I Am, available now on DVD.
Sixteen-year old Lucy Diamond (Sarah Bolger) is a lost youth with a passion for cooking. Her young mother (Claire Danes) had Lucy when she was 17 and is trying to find some meaning to her lost life. The father in the picture, or out of the picture as it were, is played by James Marsden. The father only makes it home a handful of times a year because of his job.
Without a husband and father around, Lucy begins heading down various paths of sex and parties while her mother begins looking into other options for her lonely love life. The working father comes home to find his family different and further away from him each time he steps through the door.
As Cool As I Am has some great, poignant moments. The relationship between Lucy and her friend Kenny (Thomas Mann) works well, and the script deals with a young girl’s struggle to find herself and adulthood in the midst of her parents’ childish behavior as real and heavily emotional. The character of Lucy is where this movie succeeds.
Where As Cool As I Am falters is in the arena of finding a real point or hook. There are plenty of opportunities from Lucy’s passion for cooking, her father’s supposed search for his real parents and others themes, but the film just plods along from one emotional scene to the next without ever really having a center. It’s a 90 minute movie with plenty of conflict, but it fails to ever know what its central conflict is.
Bolger’s performance as Lucy is the highlight of the film. She captures a young girl’s changing personality and lost nature in a hypnotic way. She’s a fantastic actress as are the film’s other performers. Danes manages to make a pretty bad mother understandable in small ways. Marsden also does great work as the father, but he’s given the short end of the stick here. The script really needed to focus on him and his relationship with his daughter more. It’s one of the strongest bonds of the film, but it’s entirely forgotten in the third act.
Because the movie can never find a purpose, the ending just sort of lands on us out of nowhere. It doesn’t give any true meaning to what came before, it just happens. As Cool As I Am does not unfortunately work as an entire movie because it is missing structure and a central point. It does work, however, as a glimpse into a young girl’s search for meaning and belonging. The filmmakers pull this off quite well as does young and talented Bolger.
Special features for As Cool As I Am are thin. There’s some trailers and a behind the scenes feature.