In Noah Pritzker’s new movie Quitters, Clark Rayman (Ben Konigsberg) is watching his family fall apart. His mother, May (Mira Sorvino), is a prescription-drug addict in the midst of a total emotional meltdown, and his father, Roger (Greg Germann), just seems to be over it all.
After a fender-bender, May is whisked off to rehab. Father and son attempt to maintain the household for a bit, but Roger is ineffectual and blind to Clark’s needs. More than apathetic himself, the kid literally just walks away, looking for a better family to adopt him. He finally finds a home with sort-of-girlfriend Natalia (Morgan Turner) and her mother and stepfather (Saffron Burrows and Scott Lawrence), whose familial affection is very appealing to him.
The problem is that Clark is a clueless creep and a sociopath in training who possesses the obnoxious certainty that he’s above it all. Just as someone starts to develop any bit of sympathy for him, he does something nasty — he just can’t help himself. For example, when his friend Etta (Kara Hayward) resists his romantic advances, he retaliates by starting a rumor about her “depression” at school. And it doesn’t take long before he wears out his welcome with Natalia’s family as well.
Meanwhile, May finds life in rehab preferable to being at home with her husband, while Roger attempts to get Clark to come back home, not out of any sort of fatherly love but because he feels the need to control something in a life that has spun completely out of control.
Noah Pritzker and co-writer Ben Tarnoff make some sharp social observations with their film, painting a bleak portrait of wealthy San Franciscans who lead joyless lives while attempting to keep up appearances. Though described in press notes as a dark comedy, it’s bleaker than that. There are some moments of humor, but it’s mostly of the rueful kind.
What helps to carry Quitters through is the caliber of its performances and the authenticity of its characters. As Clark, Konigsberg manages to intrigue and infuriate in equal measure. His feelings of emptiness are relatable, but so are his juvenile acts of rebellion. Sorvino makes a strong impression in the supporting role of his absent mother, while Germann nicely handles the character of Roger, a man who reacts to his family’s dissolution with rage, behaving in many ways like a grownup version of his son.
Turner is good, too, as Natalia, hesitantly entering into a relationship with Clark even though she’s got his number from the start. So too does Burrows’ Veronica, who allows the kid to insinuate himself into their lives for the sake of her daughter, but quickly lays down ground rules. Kieran Culkin has an interesting role as Mr. Becker, an English teacher not much older than his students, who also becomes unwittingly manipulated by the boy.
Quitters opens in select theaters and on VOD Friday, July 22.