The Post’s critics highlight original movies that are being streamed and made available on demand. Here are this week’s picks.
Much of the magic of David Sedaris’s writing can’t be translated into movie form. The content of his stories might not add up to much without the serial memoirist’s distinctive, sardonic voice and impeccable word choice. “C.O.G.,” the first feature-length adaptation of Sedaris’s work (it’s based on a short story from “Naked”), captures the right atmosphere but doesn’t offer the same wit and precision as the written version.
The dramedy is the second feature from Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who won praise for 2009’s “Easier With Practice.” That film also was about a listless young man, so Alvarez seems like a good pick to adapt the story of David (Jonathan Groff), a self-centered Yalie — with a monogrammed sweater to prove it — who takes a bus from Connecticut to Oregon to live off the grid and work on an apple farm. Along the way, he meets some mildly interesting characters, while trying to sort out his sexuality and feelings about religion.
The success of the film rests almost entirely on Groff, who channels Sedaris’s manner with deadpan looks and a bit of tone-deaf snobbery, while also coming across as likable. When David’s eyes swell with tears as he asks God for forgiveness, it’s enough to make the audience forget that minutes earlier, he was awkwardly telling a lunch table of factory workers, who are just scraping by, that they really should vacation in Japan.
The story, while never slow, seems rudderless. And that lack of focus extends to the movie’s ill-conceived score, with percussive beats that sound better suited for a movie about high school cheerleaders. Loud and distracting, the music feels like the antithesis of “C.O.G.,” which, at its best, craftily exposes subtle realizations about growing up. -- S.M.
R. Contains language and sexual content. 92 minutes. Available via iTunes, Amazon Instant, Netflix and on-demand cable.
THE IMMORTAL AUGUSTUS GLADSTONE
Robyn Miller is best known as half of the creative team (with his brother Rand Miller) behind the hit 1993 computer game Myst, an early, immersive puzzle-solving adventure set on a mysterious island that offered multiple endings. Miller’s first feature film,“The Immortal Augustus Gladstone,” is less open-ended, beginning with a shot of a gravestone that foreshadows a morbid conclusion quite different from the implication of its title.
The strangely poetic movie, however, is similarly characterized by an enigma.
That enigma is Augustus himself, a man claiming to have been born in 1856, and the subject of the documentary that this film purports to be. Played by Miller with a thick South Carolina accent, he is an odd duck, wearing an ever-present blond wig, makeup and dark gloves as he speaks to the camera crew, who listen in as Augustus reminisces about attending the 1900 Paris Exposition and living with Andy Warhol in the 1960s.
The fictional back story is that the filmmakers “discovered” Augustus through a series of autobiographical You Tube videos uploaded in 2011, in which he suggested that he was immortal. Like those bizarre short clips, the film is just convincing enough, not that Augustus is over 150 years old, but that he believes he is. Miller mixes conventional interview footage with Augustus — set in the artsy yet derelict squat he has set up in an abandoned hotel in Portland, Ore. — with man-on the-street footage and interviews with the film crew, friends of Augustus and others. The camera even tags along to a medical appointment for Augustus, set up in order to test his claims of eternal life.
Is he insane? A liar? On drugs? Augustus’s skittish roommate (Tom Olson) appears to have a substance-abuse problem, though Augustus comes across as lucid, if loopy, especially when he gets to the assertion that he is a vampire.
As bloodsuckers go, the film’s fangless subject is closer to the “nice” vampires of the “Twilight” books and films. “The Immortal Augustus Gladstone” is no horror film, and the mood is never spooky or violent. Its themes include the dynamics of memory, the pain of loss and loneliness and the desperation for connection. Sitting in front of the vintage television set in his sad but cozy home, Augustus comments that his favorite shows are reality TV programs.
There is an even more interesting notion that the film touches on, however subtly. That’s the putatively “objective” nature of documentary itself. As the film crew intrudes deeper and deeper into Augustus’s private life and personal history, not just recording it and exposing it, but becoming a part of it and, ultimately, altering it irrevocably, a fascinating question gets raised. Who are the real bloodsuckers here? -- M.O.
Unrated. Contains one brief obscenity. 95 minutes. Available via www.augustus gladstone.com and Vimeo on Demand.