True Adolescents

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
True Adolescents Movie Poster Image
Unemployed wannabe rocker forced to grow up in so-so drama.
  • NR
  • 2009
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to realize that it's time to grow up. Sam is frustrated with his life but unwilling to make any changes until a trip to the woods makes him understand that many of his problems are of his own making.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sam is a terrible role model, a wannabe rock star whose band plays, occasionally, to sparse audiences. He's refused to pursue any other lifestyle, leaving him a broke, unemployed homeless thirty-something who is angry at everyone. But when he's forced into a dangerous situation and people are depending on him, he rises to the occasion without complaint.


No violence but some scenes include people yelling at each other in anger.


Young teens make out after meeting at a hotel pool. Two teen boys are briefly seen kissing. Plenty of ribald talk among teen boys about sex, though it's mostly aspirational as they have few experiences to actually discuss. Some discussion about whether a character may be gay.


Lots of swearing, including "s--t," "a—hole," "d--k," and various permutations of the F-word. An adult frequently insults two young teenage boys with some very choice language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking in bars or while relaxing at home. One character smokes cigarettes, even while hiking in the woods. He also drinks beer and gets drunk while alone in a hotel room. Two adults smoke a joint and share it with a not-very-reluctant young teenage boy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this drama features lots of language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," etc.) and some drinking, smoking, and marijuana use. The main character is an aimless musician who starts out as a poor role model, but when a camping adventure goes awry, he must make some tough choices, and in the process learns a little about himself. A few scenes include teens kissing (including a brief kiss between two boys) and talking about sex.

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What's the story?

Sam (Mark Duplass) is a loser. There's not really a better way to describe an unemployed rocker wannabe, still playing to sparse Tuesday night crowds. It gets worse when his girlfriend throws him out, leaving him homeless and crashing (again) with his aunt Sharon (Melissa Leo in a small role). With nothing better to do, he agrees to take Sharon's son and his best friend (Bret Loehr and Carr Thompson) camping, a trip that absolutely does not go according to plan.

Is it any good?

There are some things about TRUE ADOLESCENTS that ring true. Duplass has nailed the role of a man still chasing dreams of stardom and refusing to grow up. He's optimistic but bitter and takes it out on everyone around him. No wonder he bugs just about all the people he knows. And the boys, Jake and Oliver, really do seem like best friends who depend on, and sometimes irritate, each other.

The camping-trip-gone-awry is also the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, and it's nice to see Sam step up when people are relying on him. It's almost the catalyst to help him grow. Almost. But in the end, it's not clear that he's learned anything, and the films ends pretty much in the same place it started: a portrait of a loser.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in this movie. What is the movie trying to say about responsibility and life choices? Do you think Sam makes a significant change by the end of the film? Does the film successfully convey its message through Sam?

  • What do you think about the smoking and drinking in the film? Is it there to indicate something about the characters? Would the movie have worked without the smoking and drinking?

  • How realistic is this movie? Do you know anyone like Sam?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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