This self-destructive quest for acceptance is further fueled by events at home. Mom and her new boyfriend thoughtlessly announce that a planned mother-son vacation will now be taken by the romantic couple alone, with Peter farmed out to Grandma’s. Lingering fallout from this betrayal, combined with an ugly last “test,” drive protag to take the group’s petty cruelties onto a horrific new plane.
This final sequence could have turned excessively melodramatic, but Stiller’s understatement throughout renders it convincing (though too abrupt as an ending —some sort of coda seems called for). Likewise, writer-helmer manages to avoid stock alienated-youth postures or simplistic blame-the-parents undercurrents. It becomes clear Peter is heading for a wrecked, probably incarcerated adulthood, if he makes it that far. But pic doesn’t present him as any “typical” victim of dysfunction; view is sympathetic without recourse to sentimentality or sensationalism.
Perfs from both young and adult thesps are very good, lensing and other production contributions polished within a willfully somber, muted overall tone.