My First Mister | Chicago Reader

My First Mister

Sometimes when you see an original, quasi-perfect American film such as Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, you amuse yourself by imagining how Hollywood would fuck it up. Look no further. Christine Lahti's directorial bow spotlights a disaffected teenager (Leelee Sobieski as a girl addicted to punk accoutrements and writing eulogies) who hooks up with a marginal loser some 30 years her senior (Albert Brooks as a reclusive clothing-store owner). But where Zwigoff's film borders on poetry, My First Mister (yes, the title is a tip-off to its coyness) is a bathetic TV-movie-type “learning experience” that provides about as much insight into teenagers as 40s westerns did into Indians—it's all in the costumes and customs. Only Brooks has the space and talent to construct a believable character; Sobieski lacks the skill to transmute her badly written affects into a full persona. Lahti has surrounded her with wonderfully inventive actors—Carol Kane, Michael McKean, Mary Kay Place—but she's handed them a script that runs on stereotype and schmaltz. 109 min.

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