Growing Op

What makes a family normal? Is there a guide to the formation of a “normal” nuclear family unit? I assume it would include a steady income for the parents, school for the kids and a comfortable living establishment, right? So, if that steady income is procured by illegal means and the kids are homeschooled, does that make a family abnormal even if they love and care for each other more than most families? These are only some of the questions proposed by the comedy Growing Op.


Quinn (Steven Yaffee) is an eighteen-year-old social outcast living in the midst of a top-notch marijuana growing operation run by his anti-establishment parents, Bryce (Wallace Langham) and Diana (Rosanna Arquette). He and his sister, Hope (Katie Boland), receive their education from their former teacher mother, and live a relatively normal, albeit secretive and socially stunted, life. That is, until a beautiful new neighbor, Crystal (Rachel Blanchard), inspires Quinn to attend a public high school and gain a sense of normalcy to his rapidly dwindling childhood. Once enrolled, Quinn begins learning about the “evil” institutions his parents had warned him about for so many years.

The key to Growing Op is not centered on the marijuana and its illegality (although having watched The Union helped understand the operation), but the tenderness and care Quinn’s parents give each of their children despite their socially frowned upon occupations. Langham and Arquette are excellent together, as well as with Yaffee and Boland. They convey Bryce and Diana’s sincere love for their children in a smart, yet effective way. They also represent the alternative lifestyle very well – especially Arquette crying for her son being brainwashed the way a mother usually cries for a child leaving for college. It really enforces the point that in all walks of life – the accepted, the underground and everything in between – there are good parents that truly want the best for their kids. Luckily, this is given a fair amount of screen time despite the “main” coming-of-age story for Quinn.

The high school aspect of the film is the same old story of a new kid being bullied and forced to stay on the social periphery until able to prove his or her worth. The popular kids even have strategy sessions on how to keep Quinn’s popularity to a minimum – I wish I was kidding. Apart from the best guidance counselor ever as his mentor, there is nothing about Quinn’s high school experience that improves the movie. He may claim to be joining the legion of high schoolers to actually meet people his own age, but this proves to be an empty excuse as he focuses solely on Crystal.

What ends up saving Growing Op is Langham and Arquette (and to a lesser degree Boland; she brings a good level of attitude to the film). Unfortunately their efforts are overshadowed by the weak high school plot and awful performances from other adults (like Crystal’s parents). The end is slightly shocking and helps bring you out of the lull caused by the high school drama and prom rituals, but not enough to keep you from simply saying “meh, entertaining enough.”

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