There’s a shocking, casual quality to the self-destructive narcissism of the pretty, petty kids squandering their lives in the L.A. sunshine of The Young Unknowns. Lounging at his father’s swank Hollywood house while Dad is off making a movie in London, Charlie (”My So-Called Life”’s Devon Gummersall) fills the emptiness in his long, aimless days by cruelly belittling his girlfriend Paloma (Arly Jover), roughhousing with his hanger-on buddy Joe (Eion Bailey), and treating Cassandra (”ER”’s Leslie Bibb), an in-over-her-head new girl in town, with such mirthless disdain that the coked-up colt retreats deep behind the fortress of drugs she has stashed in her purse.
This raw and potent feature debut of writer-director Catherine Jelski is by no means the first indie to pin a generation of wriggling credit-card brats to the screen (think ”Igby Goes Down”), and it says nothing new about parental negligence among the rich and name-dropping. But from her very first scene — a David Hockney-esque expanse of L.A. swimming-pool blue — Jelski decisively establishes a dispassionate insider’s voice. The miseries that accrue for this foursome during their wasted time together are stupid, sad, and — most intentionally disturbing of all — unexceptional. The performances, meanwhile, especially those of Gummersall and Bibb, are impressively natural and uncensored.