The stoner comedy has found a huge audience since the 1970s, so why can't the stoner drama have a place in modern cinema? Well, thanks to Humboldt County, now it can.
Clueless, emotionless UCLA medical student Peter Hadley (first-time actor Jeremy Strong) just found out he's going to fail his final course before heading to residency. Sadly, the professor flunking him is also his father. Delirious and distraught, Peter finds himself riding into the wilderness with a new wild acquaintance (Fairuza Balk, The Craft) he mistakes for a prostitute. Upon arriving in a sleepy Pacific coastal town, Peter realizes he's stumbled into a marijuana-growing hippie commune that might actually have more issues to deal with than he does.
As much as it sounds like comedy, Humboldt County is really a drama with situational humor thrown in. There's an innocence and likeability to all of the characters, even when they're awkward and obnoxious. Strong's first work in front of the camera (he's been assisting productions since 1996) is thoroughly enjoyable, especially in scenes opposite character actor Brad Dourf—whom I loved in HBO's Deadwood—as the commune's patriarchal pothead.
The film's lone weakness comes when the film ends without a needed confrontation or resolution; luckily, the shortcoming doesn't ruin the rest of the movie.
Humboldt County is a great example of how you can take a topic usually reserved for comedy—like smoking pot—and convert it to dramedy. This title's a nice choice for renters looking for a sweet but subtle story with a few adult themes thrown in.
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