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My First Mister is a 2001 film written by Jill Franklyn, and directed by actress Christine Lahti. The film is the story of an alienated goth teen (Leelee Sobieski) who forms an unlikely friendship with a lonely men's clothing store owner (Albert Brooks). The film also co-stars Carol Kane, John Goodman, and Desmond Harrington.[1]


Jennifer (Sobieski), a 17-year-old mall rat punk-goth girl, takes a shine to the 49-year-old manager of a Los Angeles clothing store, Randall Harris (Brooks), who also notices her. In an unlikely move, he gives her a job as a stockroom clerk, but she finds her way to the front of the store and begins to interact with -- and sell clothes to -- customers.

As the two strike up an unlikely friendship, they realize that neither has any close friends with whom they can talk. They nickname each other "J" and "R." Randall helps Jennifer get an apartment of her own with an advance on her salary. He buys her a dress for work. While he can't go through with getting a tattoo, he does go with her to a cemetery to lie on graves and feel the "energy" of the deceased -- something she does regularly. At one point, Jennifer reveals to Randall that she engages in self harm

After Randall collapses in the street while taking a walk, Jennifer discovers he has a terminal disease, leukemia, and doesn't have long to live. While collecting his personal belongings at his home, she discovers the address of his ex-wife. Unable to contact her by phone, J drives to Albuquerque, New Mexico only to find she had died six months earlier in a car accident. J meets the woman's (and Randall's) son, Randy, a deeply cynical young man who was told his father had died before he was born. Jennifer convinces him to come back to L.A. before Randall dies. Because of Jennifer, they have a brief time to get to know one another.

Her friendship with Randall inspires her to seek a more friendly relationship with her own mother, father and stepfather. In Randall's final days, Jennifer organizes a dinner at which his son and Jennifer's family come together to celebrate his life.


  • Albert Brooks as Randall 'R' Harris
  • Leelee Sobieski as Jennifer "J" Wilson
  • John Goodman as Benjamin Wilson
  • Carol Kane as Mrs. Benson
  • Michael McKean as Bob Benson
  • Henry Brown as Jack Taylor, Salesman
  • Desmond Harrington as Randy Harris, Jr.
  • Mary Kay Place as Nurse Patty

Production and casting

This film was not the first time Michael McKean and Christine Lahti had worked together. They were in rehearsals for a partly improvised comedy film titled "Kiss the Bride." The project never came to the silver screen. It would have been directed by Bob Balaban.

Leelee Sobieski's character, Jennifer, has a number of facial piercings, and cartilage piercings in both ears, but does not have her earlobes pierced—to which a reference is made in the movie. At the time the movie was made, Sobieski herself did not have pierced earlobes, as she did not have them done until 2006. Especially for her part in this movie, she did, however, have both nostrils, both eyebrows and her lower lip pierced, along with the cartilage of both ears. After filming was completed, she removed the piercings and allowed them to close up again, but kept the jewelry as a souvenir of the movie.

In DVD commentary director Christine Lahti applauds the work of the cast and crew, remarking "[I] was very lucky to have such a wonderful crew..." During casting she was very impressed with Albert Brooks' passion for the role. When Sobieski was mentioned for the part "J", Lahti was skeptical that "...such a beautiful face" would capture the feeling and look of isolation that was needed for the character, but she changed her mind when she took the opportunity to meet Sobieski for the role. She did feel regret that the film was rated R, for language, despairing that the movie might not be viewed by teenagers who would like and relate with the characters. Also, Lahti mentioned several times that she would have liked to have more time to shoot different perspectives in order to facilitate story arc.

Critical reception

Film critic Roger Ebert praised the film, writing, "These two characters are so particular and sympathetic that the whole movie could simply observe them...The bravest thing about the movie is the way it doesn't cave in to teenage multiplex demographics with another story about dumb adults and cool kids. My First Mister is about reaching out, about seeing the other person, about having something to say and being able to listen. So what if the ending is in autopilot? At least it's a flight worth taking."[2]


  1. My First Mister at the Internet Movie Database
  2. Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, October 12, 2001. Last accessed: January, 27, 2011.

External links