In the world that most of us live in, our lives are ruled by technology. We use phones, computers, cars and so much more. It’s not farfetched to say that most people could not operate without technology. So, what would happen if we removed ourselves from technology and out “high societies” and went back to the olden days of working on farms, walking and having to actually communicate in person? Now imagine you’re a graduate from Yale and you’re fed up with your life and you decide to move to Oregon to be an Apple farmer.
That’s the route that David (Jonathan Groff) has taken. He wanted to get away from the world and his family, so he takes a bus all the way out to Oregon. It’s quite clear that he differs from the people who live in the country, mainly because of the difference in vernacular and the strong religious beliefs. He feels out of place and on his own, but there’s something charming and amusing about embracing a new lifestyle. He winds up working on an Apple plantation for (insert name), who gives him a place to stay and kind people to work with. At first, he’s not so great at his job and is outmatched by the Hispanic workers that he is unsure of. As he works, he’s exposed to a new lifestyle that’s dependent on his hard work and lack of knowledge. Often, he’s caught reading Walden and is insulted for his yearning of knowledge.
After a new job presents itself, David goes to work night shifts in an Apple factory, where he will sort the ripe apples from the gross ones. It’s there, that he meets Curly (Corey Stoll), a fellow employee who’s actually decently educated. The two form a friendship that bring some joy to David, until things begin to turn south. Ultimately, David ends up leaving his job and begins living with Jon (Denis O’Hare), a devout Christian who had handed him a pamphlet weeks early that asked “Are you a C.O.G.?” As David struggles with becoming a Christian, he also struggles with hiding his homosexuality, as to blend in with the society. David’s journey is one of subtle humor and tragic fortune that tells an emotional story.
C.O.G. is the film adaptation of a short story written by David Sedaris. Sedaris is a humorist who often incorporates dark themes into his work. While there is much humor to be had in this film, there are also many dramatic moments that will leave you heartbroken. As we see David’s journey unfold, we will laugh and cheer and hurt and cry. This film has a very realistic quality to it, in that you will try to put yourself in David’s shoes. They don’t tell you outright that David is gay, but it’s implied through his actions, the actions of others and the effects of the words that others speak. As he isolates himself from the technology-filled world, we will ponder what it must be like to do the same.
Jonathan Goff attained a lot of notice from his role of Jesse on the hit show Glee! Groff can sing and he can act; that was evident. What a lot of people don’t know is that Groff is gay in real life. He has chosen a vast array of gay and straight roles and his performance in this film is spectacular. His control of emotions and lifelike depiction of a young man disconnected from the world is nothing short of a star-making performance. For those still on the fence about Groff, C.O.G. will make your mind up. Groff keeps this film alive and really becomes the character he’s portraying.
Corey Stoll, who has recently gained attention for his portrayal of Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris and his role in House of Cards as Peter Russo, really solidifies his acting ability in this film. His character is also gay, but he is more open about it than David. Whereas David is shy and reserved about his sexuality, Curly is overly aggressive and longing for someone else like him. The interactions that ensue between the two of them are emotionally hard to watch and fuel their great performances. Also turning in a great performance is Denis O’Hare, who convincingly portrays a Child of God who is lost on his path. He’s very firm in his beliefs and often has outrages due to others who view things differently. All three bring solid performances to the table that keep this film afloat.
Where C.O.G. falls flat is with its telling of the story. Many of the scenes are prolonged and make the film seem much longer than it actually is. There are also a few characters who only play small roles in the film, yet they seem to have a larger significance than the film leads on. We don’t get too much of a background on David and I think that may have helped us to understand why he wanted to leave his old life and start anew. The film also ends kind of abruptly, but it does end well (in my opinion). If you understand the story and writing style of Sedaris, it will make sense to you.
C.O.G. is not a perfect film by any means, but it tells an emotional story that evokes incredible performances from three fine actors on the rise. More so than the other two, Jonathan Groff delivers a star-making performance that should get him recognized by major directors. He’s truly fantastic in this film and deserves recognition for his work. While the film may have flaws, Groff does not. I’m very excited to see more from Groff and Stoll and I believe that this is a great introductory film those curious about their work. Well, I’d also suggest you watch Glee for Groff and Midnight in Paris and House of Cards for Stoll! Either way, you’ll enjoy their performances and the film as well, despite the fact that you may end up heartbroken!