Tod Harrison Williams
Seann William Scott
You’d think for someone with such a laundry list of emotional baggage, a film based on the real life of Jeff Nichols would make for an interesting story, or at least a main character. Not so much. AMERICAN LOSER isn’t able to balance the comedy and the drama all that well, making for an awkward, muddled plot that’s not that funny, not that interesting, and not terribly insightful about Jeff’s issues. In fact, I’d venture that the film doesn’t really portray him as someone with disabilities—just your typical selfish, spoiled rich kid.
The movie is essentially a series of Jeff’s “shares” at various 12-step meetings, which makes for a disconnected structure and meandering plot. We’re treated to a bunch of random comic anecdotes that might’ve been funny in the novel, but flounder on screen. These include Jeff’s parents thinking their ten year old son is raping a stuffed puma, Jeff pooping in bed after having sex with Gretchen Mol, Jeff spilling hot coffee on his crotch in a public place, Jeff cursing and throwing things at children while working as a substitute teacher, and...well, you get the picture.
I like Seann William Scott (he was in THE RUNDOWN after all) and he gives the role of Jeff his best, trying to balance his manic comic energy with some more dramatic chops, but the material doesn’t do him any favors. Even proven funny people like Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”) have nothing to work with.
There’s just so many better movies about addiction, disabilities and quirky people that it’s hard to recommend this one.
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Extra Tidbit: Yes, the misspelling in TRAINWRECK: MY LIFE AS AN IDOIT is intentional.