Newcomwer Lou Taylor Pucci, the actor playing the titular thumbsucking teen won top acting prizes at Sundance and Berlin. We'll be seeing him again. Guaranteed. Thumbsucker was directed by Mike Mills, who had previously made cool videos for Moby, Air and Pulp. His adaptation of a novel by Walter Kirn is an Amerindie dramedy about a suburban Oregon family. For my money, it's a better film than the overrated Junebug because it's not afraid of confrontation and digs deeper into its characters.

Pucci plays Justin, he's bright, insecure, and manages to hide his habit from friends. His parents (Vincent D'Onofrio and Tilda Swinton) prefer to be called Mike and Audrey, which belies difficult transitions into middle age. Mike seems to be still grieving the death of his pro football prospects due to a knee injury and Audrey's crush on a TV actor is downright juvenile. Justin's precocious 12 year-old brother resents him for being the center of attention. Outside the family, Justin's two major role models are played by Vince Vaughn, a supportive and somewhat indulgent debate teacher, and Keanu Reeves as an advice-dispensing, new-age orthodontist. Of course there's a girl, Rebecca; she's also in the debate club and appears to like Justin. Rebecca figures Justin is holding back and drifts away temporarily. Like several major characters, Rebecca will undergo one or more transformations, not atypical of a stage when people are busy figuring out who they are.

Mills does a good job of balancing the dramatic and comedic aspects of the material. Perhaps his greatest triumph, besides guiding the novice Tucci through his performance, is how Thumbsucker takes a wide range view of addiction. Thumbsucker seems to argue that we need to become aware that besides substances, addiction to behaviors, self-definitions, and even beliefs can be detrimental to our mental and emotional health.

Lamentably, there isn't much money invested in the marketing of this highly entertaining American movie. Consequently, the film has grossed only about half a million. Run don't walk if it's still playing near you, because it may be gone next week.