USA | 103 MINUTES
Writer-director Tony McNamara puts an unexpected comic twist on the boy meets strange older neighbor story. Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) cannot help proving that he is too smart for his new Virginia high school, where he is picked on by everyone save for that quirky girl Eloise (Emma Roberts). With his father unreachable and his mother June (Sarah Silverman) looking for her own connections, Ed turns to his neighbor Ashby Holt (Mickey Rourke) for help. Ashby’s unforgiving brand of tough love soon tests their friendship, and it hardly helps when Ed discovers that Ashby was once a CIA assassin.
Peppered with upbeat music and standout performances, especially by Wolff, Ashby is a spirited, self-referential update on Harold and Maude for a Taken generation. McNamara tackles what Ed calls “a fifties view of the world,” sending up the familiar tropes of bullies, disaffected teachers, pep talks, and more than one search for a father figure. He creates a pithy examination of manliness and identity, how we attempt to redefine ourselves for a fresh start or, at least, an honorable finish. —Arthur Ryel-Lindsey