Manic | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Brutally honest and beautifully acted, this debut feature by Jordan Melamed follows an explosively violent high school kid (Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Third Rock From the Sun) as he's committed to a private mental hospital and enters group therapy with other teens whose problems are as intractable as his own. Melamed and screenwriters Blayne Weaver and Michael Bacall spent 18 months researching their subject and revising the script, and the actors met with troubled teens as part of the lengthy rehearsal; the handheld DV cameras enhance the sense of verisimilitude, but what makes this consistently gripping is Melamed's fidelity to the bleak but penetrating outlook of real adolescents. With Bacall, Zooey Deschanel, Cody Lightning, Elden Henson, Sara Rivas, and Don Cheadle as the ward psychiatrist trying to keep all hell from breaking loose. 100 min. Landmark's Century Centre.

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