The Young Unknowns

What begins as an aimless day of joyless hedonism becomes a long dark night of the soul for emotionally-stunted, 23-year-old Charlie (Devon Gummersall). The simultaneously spoiled and neglected son of a successful commercial director, Charlie and his girlfriend, Paloma (Arly Jover), are staying in his father's white-on-white rental house in the L.A. hills...read more

Watchlist Added
Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

What begins as an aimless day of joyless hedonism becomes a long dark night of the soul for emotionally-stunted, 23-year-old Charlie (Devon Gummersall). The simultaneously spoiled and neglected son of a successful commercial director, Charlie and his girlfriend, Paloma (Arly Jover), are staying in his father's white-on-white rental house in the L.A. hills while Dad, his third wife and their new baby are playing house in London. Having grown up in Hollywood, Charlie knows how to talk the talk: The road to success is paved with losers who can't keep up or get their act together, Charlie blusters; he's working on his spec spot, making connections, setting up sweet deals... except that he isn't. All he really does is belittle his girlfriend, production coordinator Paloma (Arly Jover), talk trash with his truly moronic best bud, Joe (Eion Bailey), and wait for dad to call and invite him to work with the family firm in London. That call never comes, though another does: Charlie's estranged mother has died in Vermont of complications from alcoholism. Joe shows up with a dim-witted model, Cassandra (Leslie Bibb), and breaks her nose in a fit of impulsive anger. Paloma eventually tires of Charlie's relentless nastiness, and Joe, Charlie and Cassandra, her nose taped and puffy, tool around town drinking and drugging until the night ends as badly as it was bound to when Paloma whipped up that wake-up pitcher of margaritas. First-time feature film director Catherine Jelski worked extensively as a theater director and script supervisor on movies before writing The Young Unknowns, inspired by Austrian playwright Wolfgang Bauer's 1969 Magic Afternoon. Jelski's screenplay, a finalist in the fiercely competitive Walt Disney Screenwriting Fellowship competition, is repetitive and stagy — the first two-thirds unfolds on a single location, a house once inhabited by Hollywood Madame Heidi Fleiss — but the film's sleek, limpid look belies the $200,000 budget and the performances are strikingly good. Charlie is a truly loathsome protagonist — self-pitying, ignorant, untalented, misogynistic, virulently self-deluded and driven by a poisonous sense of entitlement. Gummersall's fearlessly unsympathetic performance is uncompromising, and Bailey's Joe is worse — Joe is stupider, meaner and blissfully unaware that everyone but Charlie holds him in the utmost contempt. Paloma is a puzzle, though Jover evokes an elusive sense of damage, and Bibb's Cassandra is so guileless that you fear for her long before you know why — all four are young talents to watch.