Hannah Takes The Stairs
"Everybody's in love with the wrong person and nobody actually hears what anybody else is saying."
I love Andrew Bujalski, I really do, but I kinda want to smack him in the face for coining the term "mumblecore," if just because it seems to diminish the value of his two excellent features, and lumps him in with
peers contemporaries such as Joe Swanberg who make films that ape his style, but lack his work's depth and wit. I understand that these sort of words are helpful for marketers, curators, and journalists, but I really don't think we need to come up with 00s synonyms for "slacker."
Bujalski is in Hannah Takes The Stairs, but it's Swanberg and Greta Gerwig's movie. The two are adept at mimicking the superficial qualities of Bujalski's films -- it's basically an hour and a half of chatty though mostly inarticulate well-to-do twentysomethings kinda sorta getting together and then kinda not -- but its characters are not especially interesting or likeable, and though it obviously wants to say something about the way crushes set people up for disappointments when they don't allow themselves to make real emotional connections, the execution is clumsy and the point is weak. Whereas Bujalski's films make understated though very insightful comments on the passivity and deferred adulthood of a generation of educated young adults, Swanberg and Gerwig are content to dress up garden variety indie relationship-movie blahness in a hip new aesthetic or two. (Unsurpisingly, a good chunk of Hannah kinda looks like an American Apparel ad, and the casual yet obviously exhibitionistic nudity of some scenes recall the work of Ryan McGinley and his ilk.)
Bujalski's presence as a lead actor elevates most of his scenes -- there's a particularly great moment involving him making out with Gerwig's Hannah then kinda shrugging it off that takes full advantage of both his weirdly anti-sexual demeanor and his dry comedic timing -- but the rest of the actors lack the charisma necessary to make their characters more than just a collection of nervous tics. Everyone seems natural, but no one comes across as being a particularly smart or interesting person. Hannah frequently complains about her suitors being so devastatingly witty that she cannot compete with them in conversation, but none of the major characters ever seems to be intentionally funny. It's hard to tell whether Gerwig and Swanberg meant for their cast to seem rather dull, or if they simply went too far with the "mumblecore" formula and that was the unfortunate result.