A disaffected teenager (Thora Birch, in a variation on her sneering daughter from American Beauty
) forms an unexpected friendship with a 35-ish dork (Steve Buscemi), coming to see in him an older, riper version of her own cynicism rather than just another hapless target for it. Adapted from the comic book by Daniel Clowes (who co-wrote the script with director Terry Zwigoff), the film overcomes its neo-Catcher in the Rye
angst to take us in surprising and unexpected directions. The story falters in the home stretch, as Zwigoff gropes for a way to resolve his plot threads, but the stumble isn’t enough to spoil the pleasures of what goes before. Zwigoff gets fine performances from Birch and Buscemi; it’s especially nice to see Buscemi playing a real person rather than a wisecrack-machine.