Jonathan Groff plays Samuel, though he’s known to many other people as David, a young man who decides to take a time out from his life and “slum it” for a while. He wants to get some life experience, get his hands dirty and perhaps get his head in a different place. To do this, he takes a job picking apples for a man named Hobbs (Dean Stockwell). The rest of the workers are all Mexican, a language that Samuel can’t speak, but the communication improves slightly as he joins the team and makes an effort to keep up with their work schedule. Seeing that he’s suited for better things, however, Hobbs gets Samuel a job at a local factory. Apples are also involved there, but it’s slightly better work. Samuel is befriended by a man named Curly (Corey Stoll) at the factory, unaware that there are some seriously crossed wires about to cause him a bit of a shock. The final vital character in this tale is Jon (Denis O’Hare), a deeply religious man who sees Samuel as someone that he may be able to help. Samuel, not being the religious type, finds that highly doubtful. Initially.
C.O.G. has a framework that viewers have seen, essentially, many times before, but that framework is used to hang some enjoyably unique designs. Writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez manages to keep things interesting as he alternates between humour and effective drama while the central character desperately tries to find, and hang on to, some stability.
Jonathan Groff is fine in the lead role, Corey Stoll is very good, and it’s always great to be reminded of Dean Stockwell’s acting chops, but this movie is lifted up a notch by the great performance from Denis O’Hare. His character embodies both the best and worst of those who claim to live by a religious code, and his performance is a suitably volatile one. Casey Wilson, Troian Bellisario, Dale Dickey and a few others fill out supporting roles, but this is O’Hare’s movie from the moment he first appears to the rolling of the end credits.
Adapted from an autobiographical essay by David Sedaris, this walks a fine line between absurd and painfully believable. It’s a look at someone who needs help, someone at their most vulnerable, and the further problems that can come along when that help is actually offered. Some help comes with strings attached.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: KYLE PATRICK ALVAREZ
STARS: JONATHAN GROFF, DENIS O’HARE, COREY STOLL, DEAN STOCKWELL, CASEY WILSON, TROIAN BELLISARIO, DALE DICKEY
RUNTIME: 87 MINS APPROX