Looking to escape family and the familiar, Ivy Leaguer Samuel (Glee’s Jonathan Groff) journeys west to take a job as an apple picker on an Oregon farm. What seemed like a nice change of pace quickly becomes a fish-flung-way-out-of-water imbroglio, as the tactless Easterner alienates everyone he encounters—Mexican day laborers, female factory workers, a forklift operator (House of Cards’s Corey Stoll) whose daunting dildo collection sends our hero scurrying into the night. Samuel ends up living in an abandoned beauty parlor with an emotionally volatile evangelical Christian (Denis O’Hare) who shows him how to sculpt jade and teaches him the limits of tolerance.
An adaptation of a short story from David Sedaris’s best-selling Naked collection, C.O.G. (short for “Child of God”) struggles from the outset to retain the snap of the NPR favorite’s hyperbolic humor while also grounding it in authenticity—a tonal disconnect that nonetheless serves to destabilize a potentially predictable coming-of-age tale. Writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez invites us to empathize with the locals, though our East Coast interloper remains the narrative focus and a font of queasily classist punch lines. The ace in the hole is Groff, who fluidly slides between lip-curled sarcasm and teary-eyed vulnerability—he’s the embodiment of the thrill and terror of being a not-so-little boy lost.
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