I have this like/hate relationship with mumblecore movies. Mumblecore refers to a form of cinema verite characterized by cheap/low production and lots of talking and improvisation. The “plots” (term used loosely) generally focus on malaised, artistic twenty-somethings who, depending on who you ask, you can relate to or you want to punch in the face. The films don’t really have plots like traditional cinematic storytelling; they’re full of lots of squirmy interactions strung together with socially awkward, yet realistic individuals. Some of my friends absolutely hate these films and though I kind of understand their frustration and boredom, I’m often drawn in by the realism. My biggest complaint of these films is that the characters take themselves sooo seriously. Real life can also involve much humor!
I guess you could argue Richard Linklater sort of popularized this genre with his early films, like Slacker, but today Andrew Bujalski and the Duplass brothers (Mark & Jay) are probably the strongest examples of the movement. I couldn’t really get into the Duplass brothers’ films, but I’ve seen a couple of Bujalski’s--Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. The latter stars Justin Rice (lead singer of the band Bishop Allen) as a broke musician who’s moved back to NY and as much as the film sort of irritates me, I find Rice charismatic and likable so I got caught up in his story despite myself (see above photos 1&2). And Funny Ha Ha (see above, last two photos) was like peering into a window of my life as an awkward twenty-something—the actress reminds me of my younger self so much (way more than Laura Dern!). I even dressed like her through college and after (her uniform-an ironic t-shirt paired with corduroys and some cool kicks.) I could totally relate to her shuffling aimlessly through temp jobs and romantic encounters all the while obsessing over her ambiguous relationship with her close, platonic guy friend love interest (yeah, had a few of those). What do you think, does she look like me? Look at that chin! :)
But what really initiated this post today was listening to Terry Gross’ interview with Lena Dunham, auteur of the new “mumblecore” film Tiny Furniture. I was on the fence about seeing this film, but this interview really cemented my desire to see it after hearing how thoughtful and insightful Dunham is. Stay tuned--next post will be about Dunham and this interview!
(Also, below I’ve posted the trailer to another Justin Rice film called Harmony and Me which verges on mumblecore, but I think is way funnier and more accessible. Also it stars Kevin Corrigan who is awesome.)