We gave it a B
The aimless 20-year-olds who hang out doing nothing, self- destructively, in SubUrbia share the raggedy, improvisatory look and lives director Richard Linklater captured so memorably in Slacker and Dazed and Confused. But they speak the distinctive, caffeinated language of Eric Bogosian, the monologuist and actor (Talk Radio) on whose 1994 play this bleakly interesting if stagy production is based.
Slacking still takes up much of just about every night for Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi, Phoebe’s half brother on Friends), the moral center of this sad postcard from a certain edge. Jeff sort of goes to college, sort of works part-time, and sort of lives at home (in a pup tent in the family garage) in Burnfield, a spirit-breaking every-suburb tract of mean houses and ugly mini-malls. His energetic, punk-haired girlfriend (Amie Carey, impressive in her feature debut) wants to move to New York City and make her furiously feminist artwork. But Jeff — morbidly sensitive and incapacitated by depression and indecisiveness — prefers to hang out in the parking lot of a Pakistani-owned convenience store with his equally disaffected friends. They include a bitter, alcoholic Air Force dropout (Dazed alumnus Nicky Katt) and a hyperactive pizza slinger so hormonally overloaded that he doesn’t even realize that the unexamined life isn’t worth living (That Thing You Do!‘s charismatic Steve Zahn, who originated the role on stage). And on this big night, the underachieving crew gather to admire, envy, and romanticize the accomplishments of their old friend Pony (Jayce Bartok from School Ties), a pleasant lunk who ditched Burnfield when he became a limo-riding rock star. (His well-dressed publicist: fellow Dazed player and indie-film sweetheart Parker Posey, doing a nifty interpretation of a rich-kid PR chick with a taste for bad boys.)
Driven by Bogosian’s finger-snapping dialogue and theatrical structure, subUrbia doesn’t allow for much pleasurably Linklaterish lounging; each character has got some serious orating to do before the night is over. But a strong cast makes those speeches echo with a frustration and melancholy that sticks. Dina Spybey (Big Night) is particularly affecting as a shaky graduate of rehab. And after Jeff blurts out, ”I can do anything I want as long as I don’t care about the result,” in one of the bleak revelations that pace the plot, the harsh kicker supplied by the put-upon immigrant shopkeeper (stage actor Ajay Naidu) hits its mark: ”You people are so stupid,” he sums up. ”You throw it all away.”