"C.O.G.": A David Sedaris Story Makes the Leap to Film, With Mixed Results

It's funny how we still tend to think that published prose somehow isn't enough, that a story isn't fully realized until it's been made into a movie. And so the first thing you'll hear about C.O.G. is that it's from a David Sedaris story, in his collection Naked; the next thing you'll hear is that it's the first Sedaris piece ever to become a film. What you may not hear, because who wants to be the one to say this, is that maybe it was better off existing only in prose, if at all. Glee's Jonathan Groff plays a version of the author, a winkingly arrogant, bookish elitist, venturing across the country by bus to a pseudo-Steinbeckian apple-picking job in Oregon, where he meets Dean Stockwell as a grouchy orchard boss, Corey Stoll as a co-worker who takes a shine to him, and the great character actor Denis O'Hare as a troubled, born-again Desert Storm vet who tutors him in the art of carving wall clocks out of stone. Having been adapted for film, by writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, the original story, categorically an essay, is at least emancipated from the obligation of pretending to be literally true. Still, it feels deeply limited, stretched unnaturally out to feature length, with not a single glib character seeming much like an actual human being — although O'Hare comes closest — and Sedaris' trademark acid wit seeming mostly like corrosive condescension. Will this be the last Sedaris piece ever to become a film?

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