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Nobody Walks

Theatrical Review

Magnolia Pictures; 83 minutes

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Written by on October 10, 2012 

Each era has its film movement. Millennials found theirs with mumblecore, its chicly boring indie nature reflecting the confusion of a well-educated yet directionless generation. One child of the genre is Ry Russo-Young, who got her start starring alongside mumblecore “It girl” Greta Gerwig in Hannah Takes The Stairs. After branching out into filmmaking with works such as the 2009 festival selection You Won’t Miss Me, she makes her major feature debut with Nobody Walks, a film she co-wrote with fellow mumblecore alum, Lena Dunham.

The sleepy drama follows Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a young, extremely gamine New Yorker who travels from ultra-hip Brooklyn to the ultra-hip valley of Silver Lake, California to work on an art film. She takes up residence with a progressive married couple and their two kids, where the husband, a filmmaker named Peter (John Krasinski), helps her with the project. When Martine seduces Peter, she becomes part of a sexually-charged microcosm that includes Peter’s wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), a psychiatrist who humors one patient’s misogynist fantasies about her, and Julie’s teen daughter, Kolt (India Ennenga), who obsesses over Peter’s assistant, David (Rhys Wakefield), and engages in borderline pedophilic interactions with her Italian tutor.

On one level, Nobody Walks produces moments of pure technical beauty. Armed with a directional microphone, Peter and Martine collect noise samples to use as background for her film, and the scenes of their process are a tribute to the magic of sound engineering. The simple squeeze of a lemon or crackling of plastic are amplified to a degree that renders them alien, an element that’s heightened when compared to the minimalist soundtrack provided by the band Fall On Your Sword. The intimate close-ups of the two handling and exploring their environment also adds a sensual aspect, as discovering newness in his familiar surroundings draws Peter closer to his house guest.

As the story unfolds, the focus turns on the three female characters, whom Russo-Young uses to paint an interesting portrait of women in various stages of their sexuality. The shrinking violet Kolt unassumingly blossoms into womanhood, and, like many high school girls, deals with it by writing poetry. Her near future is represented by the oversexed Martine, who’s more than aware of the undisciplined power she wields over men – she’s introduced making out with a guy she met during her plane ride – and it’s later revealed that her cross-country journey involves trouble with an ex-boyfriend. She looks up to Julie, who honestly discusses her past mistakes with Kolt’s father, a musician named Leroy (Dylan McDermott), and other relationships, making her seem the wise matriarch who manages to have it all, despite her faults.

The plodding narrative soon takes some weird turns, however, as the film wrestles with each character’s development. Kolt calls out her tutor’s lecherousness, but what should feel like a triumph turns off-putting when she provokes him with a smug smile. At that moment, she transforms from an innocent girl into a knowing tease doomed to repeat the poor decisions of her mother and so many women before her. But whereas Kolt suddenly has an unmotivated moment of maturity, Russo-Young and Dunham’s mumblecore influences show when the once confident Martine regresses into an oblivious, passive aggressive victim after her advances toward David throw Peter into a jealous fit. Only Julie comes out on top by proving herself an assertive, self-assured woman who takes care of her business – in short, the anti-mumblecore.

Much like many of its subjects, Nobody Walks is pretty but flighty, and in effect displays some of the downfalls of a genre now quickly losing its once vogue sheen. The emotionally-crippled creative types it follows are frustratingly self-destructive but not charming enough to earn any sympathy, even if they are played by adorables like Krasinski and Thirlby. The result is a treat for the senses that falls short of stimulating the mind.

Nobody Walks is now available on VOD and opens in limited release on FridayOctober 12th.


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