Arrested Development Meets Adulthood In 'James White' James White is an indie drama about a slacker dealing with the death of one parent and the decline of another. NPR film critic Bob Mondello says it's both intimate and intense.
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Arrested Development Meets Adulthood In 'James White'

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Arrested Development Meets Adulthood In 'James White'

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Arrested Development Meets Adulthood In 'James White'

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Last week, James Bond, this week, James White. The indie drama titled "James White" stars two performers best-known for their work on TV, Christopher Abbot of "Girls" and Cynthia Nixon of "Sex And The City." NPR critic Bob Mondello says they bring intensity to an intimate story.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: James isn't doing well when we meet him. He's at a club, hiding out from his feelings, from his family, from everything, really, even from the club's dance music. He's trying unsuccessfully to drown it out with Ray Charles on his headphones.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAMES WHITE")

MONDELLO: When James gets back to his mom's apartment, which is crowded with mourners, the reason he's been avoiding the world becomes clearer. The family is sitting shiva for his long-estranged dad, his mom enduring polite conversation with the far-younger wife who replaced her, as guests watch videos of that younger wife in happier times.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAMES WHITE")

CHRISTOPHER ABBOTT: (As James White) Karen, did you put on your wedding video? Does anyone have the remote?

MONDELLO: James is understandably indignant.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAMES WHITE")

ABBOTT: (As James White) Excuse me, everybody. I'm James. I'm going to have to ask all of you to leave, just for my mother and I to grieve in peace over my dead father. I know it's a bad time and everyone's sad, but I'm going to have to ask you all to go.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) A spoiled little boy.

ABBOTT: (As James White) Nick, I'm going to hit him if he stays.

MONDELLO: James is so protective of his mom because he feels her slipping away, too. She's been ill, and he's ill-equipped - 20-something slacker whose mother, once the crowd is gone, cuts him no slack.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAMES WHITE")

CYNTHIA NIXON: (As Gail White) You need to grow up and get off of my couch.

ABBOTT: (As James White) Get off of your couch? When you were really sick, who fought for you? I'm your son, and that is what I'm supposed to do. And I'm happy to be here because I love you. But I need a break.

NIXON: (As Gail White) That's all you do, James, is take breaks.

ABBOTT: (As James White) Look, Nick is down in Mexico. I am going to go visit him. I am not going to drink. I am not going to smoke. I'm going to eat healthy, and I'm going to swim, and I'm going to work out. And when I get back, I will get a place and a job, but I I need to go away. And when I come back, I will be ready for life.

MONDELLO: Possibly, you have to be a 20-something underachiever to have this sound like a realistic plan. But writer-director Josh Mond isn't mocking his title character in "James White." He's setting up the family dynamic that will fuel the rest of the film. Mom, played by Cynthia Nixon, is still strong at this point, but she's facing a bumpy road ahead. A collapse while her son is off partying in Mexico takes a terrible toll, and Christopher Abbott's willfully immature James, so painfully needy himself, must gather up all the strength he's inherited from his mother to care for her...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAMES WHITE")

ABBOTT: (As James White) Need anything before I go?

NIXON: (As Gail White) Just some water.

MONDELLO: ...As her world and reality part company.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAMES WHITE")

NIXON: (As Gail White) Will you get your father for me?

ABBOTT: (As James White) What?

NIXON: (As Gail White) I want to talk to your dad.

MONDELLO: As I say, bumpy road ahead, and in "James White," never more moving than when the filmmaker shows his callow hero doing the best he can - when James helps his mom weather a particularly rough patch, for instance, with what amount to real-life bedtime stories, imagining happy scenes he's pretty sure she'll never see of James White all grown up. I'm Bob Mondello.

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