As fundamentally sweet, good-natured and laid-back as its mop-haired hero, “Clipping Adam” doesn’t take the teen-at-crossroads genre anywhere in particular, but this low-budget indie film doesn’t turn adolescents into beasts so common in Hollywood films either. Frequently dramatically unsure of itself, pic rests on belief in people’s basic goodness, which is why it has and will continue to thrive on the road at various regional North American fests, with a sure pickup in ancillary as a reward.
Writer-director-producer Michael A. Picchiottino takes awhile to find a proper tone, as first reel dallies in some stale cliches from a million high school (though in this case, junior high) movies. Adam (Evan Peters) rides his bike everywhere in his unnamed coastal Southern California community, recalling fond memories of his late mom and little sister (Cassidy Burwell) before they were killed in a car crash. Two years and two months — exactly — since the tragedy, Adam has refused to cut his hair, and has grown more withdrawn.
Progressively drunk and growing spud-like on his couch, Adams’ dad, Tom (Chris Eigeman), is no help and worse off than his son. He insists Adam wear a loud black-and-white disco suit to school the day before the ’70s-themed prom which seems silly and artificially sets up a clash at school that brings out Adam’s violent side.
A gentle kiss farewell between Adam and date Audrey (Megan Strahm), who’s off on summer vacation, spins pic in a different, more human-scaled direction.
The teen’s loving Granny (Louise Fletcher) takes charge, and although her advice sounds hokey, she tells Adam to see a priest, which sets him up with Father Dan (Kevin Sorbo), a hip man of the cloth more at home playing hoops than hearing confessionals.
At the same time, Johnny (Bryan Burke) and Adam meet during their school detention, and become fast pals like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, hanging out in a wonderful tree house in Johnny’s splendid backyard. All they have to worry about is a macho acquaintance, Jerry (Donato Mario Alleva), who has some weird thing about putting razors to incoming high school freshmen’s long locks — thus, the unfortunate title.
Although characters are no more in-depth than those in a standard after-school special, pic’s perspective comes from characters’ desires and limitations rather than the genre’s stock-and-trade of goofy, gross-out situations. This is why the Jerry-with-a-razor subplot is so out of whack with the rest of “Clipping Adam’s” genial good heart, even if auds can easily glimpse the happy ending well before it arrives.
Peters proves almost too convincing as a laconic and mellow teen, and struggles much more uncovering Adam’s dawning awareness that he needs to get past the grief over his lost loved ones. Too method-y, Eigeman isn’t ideal casting as a wasted parent, but Fletcher ekes out some tender and beautiful moments as Granny recalls her own personal loss. Handling of young thesps is uneven at best.
Slick production package, unimaginative shooting style and a soothing Dean Harada guitar score amount to a smoothed-over result where more grunginess might have been more effective.