Peel came out of nowhere for me. I heard absolutely nothing of director Rafael Monserrate’s coming of age film; not a trailer, not a review, not a thing.
I stumbled across Peel after spending what seemed like an eternity scrolling through the Microsoft store looking for something to watch. The cover artwork and synopsis reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite, and I knew I had struck gold: worst case scenario I could skewer Peel for being a ripoff, best case I found an entertaining addition to the twee genre.
Peel stars Emile Hirsh as the title character, a 30-year-old man in a state of arrested development after his father abandoned him to be raised by his eccentric (Re: hippy) mother at the tender age of 5.
Peel is a doting son, making his mom orange-zini vodkas and dutifully doing yard work when he is not floating in the pool or painting. It becomes clear that he rarely leaves the confines of his home or understands basic social interactions, being oblivious as his cute Korean neighbor flirts with him.
When Peel’s Mom suddenly passes, He is forced to be on his own with no other sources of income. Peel heeds the advice of his mom’s lawyer and decides to rent out the rooms in the house in order to make the mortgage payments.
Enter Roy (Jack Kesy) and his compadre Chuck. Both are obviously not the types of roommates anyone with any social intelligence would want to cohabitate with. Luckily for them Peel is severely lacking in the good judgement department.
Roy and Chuck seem intent on making Peel’s home a bachelor pad from the get go and recruit another roommate – Chad, an attractive college student. In short order Peel’s life is turned upside down with all these “friends”.
Despite Peel’s life being filled with more people than ever before, he is still feeling unfulfilled.
Peel undertakes a mission to find his estranged Dad and brothers, and learns that life isn’t as simple as he was led to believe. Peel finds himself out of his element here, and perhaps blood isn’t thicker than water.
The biggest downfall of the film is that it tried to introduce too many heavy themes, which is fine, but it couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to be in the end.
Napoleon Dynamite’s charm was that it didn’t force anything and managed to be light-hearted and endearing. Monserrate seems like he couldn’t decide what he wanted the film to be – introspective coming of age or silly twee comedy.
Despite this, Peel is a solid addition to the genre. I genuinely enjoyed it. It had all the ingredients of a great character piece even if it felt a touch under-cooked at times.