1 star (out of 4)
There should be awards called The Bats for films like "The Young Unknowns." The Bats would be held on the same night as the Oscars, but in an empty warehouse. While Oscar folks are getting feted, Bat winners are getting it upside the head for subjecting us to dreck.
This is "Less Than Zero" for nihilists, as we follow a couple of days in the life of Charlie Fox (Devon Gummersall), a vile rich kid who functions as a psychic sponge. He wants to make commercials because that's what his father does. He's a misogynist because his friend Joe (Eion Bailey) is. He tries to be a loving boyfriend because that's what his long-suffering, fed-up girlfriend Paloma (Arly Jover) wants. Not a word, not a thought, not a part of his world is his own. He's living in a house that his father rents, getting by on the credit cards his dad has given him.
Charlie constantly snarls about his self-sufficiency, but it's a big lie - a sham that, like his life, is waiting for the one big thing to topple its house of cards. This comes when Charlie receives word that his mother has died. It should mean something to this movie, but it becomes just another excuse for Charlie to burrow deeper into his booze, sex and drug-soaked world.
This is a film in which nothing happens, even though it's supposed to be a tale of wayward youth, desperation, etc, etc. People drink, snort and die, and none of it matters because Jelski does nothing except point the camera at a bunch of scabrous dimwits and turn 'em loose. But those people aren't interesting. They're either stupid, helpless, annoying or out of control. Even when the tragic Cassandra (Leslie Bibb) shows up - a character so obvious and one-sided that "born to die" might as well be scrawled on her forehead - it should be easy to make us feel pity for her. But Jelski makes her as vacant and unlikable as Joe and Charlie.
So at the end of "The Young Unknowns" there is a sense of betrayal - I sat through all that junk for nothing?!
In order to pull off a character as wretched as Charlie, the performance must be so brilliant that it overcomes our revulsion (Harvey Keitel in "The Bad Lieutenant"), or so well drawn that his underlying goodness elicits empathy (Robert Downey Jr. in "Less Than Zero"). But even when Charlie has his second pivotal human moment that is supposed to make us have sympathy for him, it's empty because it's the result of booze and drug-soaked transference, as a dying girl becomes a psychological chance to save his dead mother.
But he doesn't, and what's more, we don't care that he doesn't. There is nothing to redeem this movie, and no real reason to see it. "The Young Unknowns" should remain so.
"The Young Unknowns"
Written and directed by Catherine Jelski; photographed and edited by Gabor Szitanyi; produced by Jelski, Eric M. Klein, Kimberly Shane O'Hara. An Indican Pictures release. Running time: 1:27. MPAA Rating: R (language, violence, sexuality, drug use).
Charlie - Devon Gummersall
Paloma - Arly Jover
Joe - Eion Bailey
Cassandra - Leslie Bibb