HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS
The spirit of John Cassavetes hovers over this indie exercise, right before turning over in its grave. If Kicking and Screaming left you kicking and screaming, this same-vein story of twenty-somethings trying to define their lives will leave you just sort of sitting there. I guess that's an improvement.
Marlon Brando and Robert Altman get channeled, too, in the dialogue delivery, which strives for a real-world feel. The difference is that Brando's mumbling and Altman's multiple speakers were focused and used at appropriate spots. You can admire the effort and obvious serious thought put into this low-budget indie feature from Chicago director-producer-editor and HD video cinematographer Joe Swanberg (part of a young group of filmmakers who with self-conscious irony have labeled their work “mumblecore” to give it the appearance of an actual style or aesthetic), but it really does feel like a very good student film rather than a professional piece.
Hannah (Greta Gerwig), a pretty, short-haired platinum blonde you just know is trouble, interns at a production company and spends the summer hooking up and breaking up with guys who include two work-mates (Andrew Bujalski, Kent Osborne). Not much else happens in this talk-heavy film that makes one appreciate the narrative strength of Eric Rohmer all the more, to name another filmmaker reliant on the poetry of dialogue. There are a couple of would-be funny sex scenes, a plot with the amorphous edges of an amoeba, and a valiant if dull attempt at capturing the aimless future-hope and present tenseness of young lives just out of college and in the real world. If these are the future doctors, teachers and politicos we have waiting for us, we can only hope they grow up in a decade or so.
Gerwig actually gives her insufferable character some verve—the actress has potential—but the remainder of the movie is a slice of life that doesn't much show much life.
An impassioned lead performance and timely parallels to contemporary social issues enliven and elevate this otherwise somewhat routine biopic. More »
» Blue Sheets
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