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“November Criminals” is based on a 2010 novel by Sam Munson. According to reviews, in the book, Addison’s braininess was conveyed by digressions in which the character expounded at length on Latin, Virgil, anti-Semitism, and more.
Here Addison (himself a pot dealer in the book, but squeaky clean in that respect for the purposes of the movie) is supposed to be considered smart because of his anachronistic love of David Bowie. I presume this whittling down of the character to a single trait is the work of director Sacha Gervasi, who revised a script originally done by Steven Knight, who’s not a perfect screenwriter but who has largely been proven to know better than to build personalities out of pop-culture referents. In any event, all of the personages in this slight movie are relatively one-note. It’s a shame that actors as searching and scrupulous as Strathairn and Keener are so ill-used.
Elgort seems at sea; as youthful as he looks, he hasn’t a real clue about acting “high-school.” Moretz is appealing as always, although there’s not much for her to do other than look up pleadingly at Elgort, who’s way taller. If you’re ever hungry for a 12th grade whodunit, Rian Johnson’s “Brick” remains your best entertainment value.