Memo to directors, aspiring or otherwise: If you need a sympathetic twentysomething fuckup, hire Zooey Deschanel. Having built a career playing endearingly spiky neurotics, she’s one of the few young actors who can pull off a little-girl-lost role and still retain a deadpan charm. In playwright Adam Rapp’s feature directorial debut, her character, Reese—a theater brat given to deadening herself with drugs, causal sex and slamming her hand in drawers—is the sort of problematic East Village habitu who usually inspires histrionic downward-spiral performances. Deschanel wisely keeps her lid on suffocatingly tight instead of ferociously flipping it, subtly communicating the psychic pain that churns under a placid surface; it’s a great portrayal of someone trying to stay numb by any means necessary.
Once Reese tracks down her father (Harris), a Salingeresque writer who’s living with a former student of his and a socially immature musician (Ferrell), the lost-souls quotient quadruples and Rapp’s drama settles into a comfortable groove of everyone licking their old wounds. It’s never a question of whether the group-hugs and healing will begin, but only a matter of when, and how much indie-film quirk (e.g., Ferrell singing a horrible but heartfelt cover of the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why”) we have to endure before it happens. Deschanel’s understated turn can’t save the movie from its own predictability, but it does make the maudlin moments far more bearable. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—David Fear