Jeffrey Porter

"Are you 2B, or not?" the menacing young cowboy threatens a bewildered Jones Dillon (Elijah Wood) on his first day living on his own, after Jones is suspected of stalking women in his new apartment building. In Jeffrey Porter's Try Seventeen, "2B" is not just an address; it's an existential teen crisis epicentre, Jones' own private Elsinore. The scene is an example of the many clever moments in a movie that pretends to push narrative boundaries but ironically succeeds in spite of, or perhaps because of, its own heartfelt conventions. Jones is a 17-year-old Holden Caulfied type with a Walter Mitty complex. (Yes, he could probably use some therapy.) Having fled the authoritative confines of his university dorm, not to mention his university classes, he happens upon an apartment to let in a gorgeously dilapidated old mansion on the outskirts of town. Of course, impossibly colourful types inhabit the place. There's Brad, the aforementioned cowboy artist (Aaron Pearl), and Lisa, a free-loving, self-obsessed, struggling actress (Mandy Moore, demurely conceding the spotlight for a well-advised supporting role). And then there's the not-so-plain Jane, the photographer from across the hall. Franka Potente, the modern-day Dietrich, plays Jane as a punk rock terror with an exquisite, vulnerable centre simply dying to be cored like an apple. Who else better to do the job than Jones, a sensitive writer who longs for his mother's love, his father's address, and the loss of his pesky virginity without compromising his negligible dignity? After living 17 years of a hard-knock, trust fund life, Jones needs to routinely disappear into fantasy to cope with the heightened, frightening reality of the day-to-day, like buying furniture from a mauve-lipped Debbie Harry and her sinister, yokel sons. Naturally, many of Jones' fantasies involve women and sex, the nadir being his imagined tryst with Harry. (Frodo Baggins and Blondie french-kissing? The horror.) The movie's climax coasts along to a rather silly ending, but one that's really hard to object to at the same time. Wood (The Lord of the Rings, The Ice Storm) overcomes his miscasting with sheer conviction and googly-eyed charm, and Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) is, as usual, the best thing on screen or a kilometre radius around it. Potente and Wood make a ridiculous-looking couple, but not a wholly implausible one. Try Seventeen only truly falters when Jones learns the truth about his father, who he has never met. Jones stops writing letters to him, that will never be sent anyway. But why does a young man with such a vivid imagination decide to shelve his typewriter for good upon hearing the bad news? It's a defeatist moment, not a healing one, and the one sour note in an otherwise sweet concoction.