Measure of a Man

A 1970s coming-of-age story in which few sparks fly.

Accurate period details weren’t a high priority in Jim Loach’s coming-of-age story Measure of a Man. Set in July 1976 at one family’s lakeside summer home, the soundtrack opens with The Edgar Winter Group’s 1973 classic “Free Ride.” But 1976 was actually the summer of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.” Likewise, the men’s hairdos are cut too short, as are their shirt collars. The only era-specific references that resonate are a clip from “Soul Train” and Donald Sutherland’s grizzled presence. That first shot of Bobby Marks (Blake Cooper) driving out of town with his parents and sister establishes an unsatisfying pattern. Instead of shooting a close-up inside the car — to examine the dynamics of their bickering — the camera pulls back and politely retreats from them.

Each time the movie draws our sympathy toward Bobby’s plight as a chubby, self-conscious adolescent, Loach either turns the volume up or cuts to the next scene. Based on Robert Lipsyte’s novel One Fat Summer, the film also excises the author’s honest approach to teenage sexuality: “Sometimes, if I was alone in the house, or in a locked bathroom, I would stroke myself until the warm feelings became a throbbing drumbeat that exploded.’’ Jesse Eisenberg practically threw off volts of electricity every time Kristen Stewart walked by in the similarly-themed Adventureland. Cooper, in comparison, isn’t allowed to muster a single spark.

Rated PG-13. 
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinemas.

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