I Am the Cheese

A bland, amateurishly directed adaptation of one of Robert Cormier’s lesser books. Robert MacNaughton (E.T.) stars as Adam Farmer, a confused teen who can’t deal with the dark secrets of his past. The secrets involve the real identities of his parents (Don Gordon and Hope Lange) and a corrupt branch of the government. In other words, the usual paranoid, depressive Cormier fare, though done with unusually little skill in the book and even less skill in the movie. Shots of Adam on his bike going to visit his dad in Vermont get extremely tiresome. This material needed a director who could supply some lyricism, but there’s a good reason you never heard of Robert Jiras; he’s big on master shots and TV-style close-ups (head and shoulders). The whole movie is overlit and plays very much like an ABC Afterschool Special. While we wait for the climactic revelation, there’s Robert Wagner as a poker-faced shrink and Cynthia Nixon as Amy, Adam’s impulsive sweetheart. Except for MacNaughton (who might as well have “California” tattooed on his forehead) and Wagner, the actors look like authentic New Englanders, including Cormier, who appears in a couple of scenes and proves he was a much finer writer than actor. (Because he’s actually in this, though, Cormier fans will want to see it.) MacNaughton, who looks even younger here than in the previous year’s E.T., gives a mostly one-note performance and at this writing has not made a comeback like his E.T. costars Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore. Filmed in Vermont. For a generally more successful adaptation of Cormier, try Keith Gordon’s The Chocolate War. Other Cormier films: The Bumblebee Flies Anyway (1999), Tenderness (2009).

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