Tag Archives: mumblecore

56. Jeff, Who Lives At Home – Duplass Brothers (2012)

First viewing.

Of all the movies in the world that a writer/director could take inspiration from Signs, by M Knighrider Night Shyamalan, is probably as unlikely a source as any. Films with Mel Gibson in as the lead character aren’t likely to be filled with flowing praise and receive a barrel full of awards, but Signs is okay. I don’t hate it, I don’t love. Jeff, Who Lives at Home doesn’t aspire to be Signs, but it namechecks it plenty and there’s more than the occasional reference dropped in, don’t worry though, JWLAH is still a good watch. I have to confess to finding most films or shows that star Jason Segel in are pretty good. He doesn’t give you incredible high-brow work, but it’s definitely a step up from your usual bog-standard comedy.

JWLAH isn’t the easiest film to review because it doesn’t do any one thing great and, conversely, there’s not too much to complain about either. It’s a good, solid, enjoyable flick, that I will probably have forgotten all about in a week or two. The story revolves around Jeff, Jason Segel, trying to connect a collection of loosely unconnected moments into something more meaningful and understandable. As Jeff searches for meaning he reconnects with his brother Pat, Ed Helms, who is on the verge of divorce. As you can see by the littering of the word “connect” in this review this is where the Signs “connection” is made. And, without giving too much away, the film is building towards a conclusion that allows the viewer to reflect back over the film and view it in a more positive light than one would have expected 50 minutes through.

The supporting cast all do a fine job of making us understand the filmmakers goal of connecting random events. The scenes with Judy Greer, who plays Jeff’s constantly disappointed sister-in-law, are nicely done and the viewer feels immediate empathy for her. This is the Duplass brothers most accomplished film, it’s certainly more intellectual than Cyrus, and all the low budget stuff that proceeded it. It isn’t, however, that great film I’ve been waiting for from them. The one I’ve been expecting after seeing Baghead a few years back. It’s charming and sweet at times, but the taste of popcorn in your mouth will stay with you longer than this film.

Marks out of ten- Seven

 

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42. The Puffy Chair – Jay Duplass (2007)

First Viewing.

2010 saw the Duplass brothers cross over from indie darlings into mainstream sell-outs successes with the not too shabby Cyrus, starring Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly, but back when they were still cool in 2007 they made The Puffy Chair and co-created “Mumblecore”. Now, somewhat ashamedly, it’s taken me an extremely long amount of time to finally catch this movie. I won’t go into too much detail explaining why it’s taken so long, except to say that the dvd was ruthless stolen from me before I had the chance to experience it’s delights. Having finally seen it, I now feel slightly more hipster and can also seriously start to contemplate that move to Portland.

Before I decided to write my little review for The Puffy Chair I skipped over the IMDB message board for the film, and, apparently, everyone in the known universe hates it. I suppose I can see why. No one likes change, especially when it comes to filmmaking, but, you know, not every shot has to be in focus and who cares if the camera wobbles so much that you’re close to travel-sickness? I found it rather endearing once I became used to it. In fact I admire someone who makes their film in an untraditional way. And I’m not totally adverse to a little pretension even….

The film’s story is basically about love, and what love is. It avoids the pitfalls of the standard “indie” movie which’ll dismiss love all together as a Hollywood myth, but it does, at times, have a cynical side. I guess it needs to, in truth. You can’t make a movie like this, a movie about connecting with people, without having the characters question their motives for being in a relationship and thus what it means to truly love someone. The movie is far from perfect, but it has heart, you can really see the love the director has for filmmaking, and that’s what counts, particularly when you’re making a movie for $15,000.

Marks out of ten- Seven

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41. Tiny Furniture – Lena Dunham (2010)

First viewing.

“He’s really famous, in an internet sort of way.”

As I’ve mention previously on this semi-narcissistic blog of mine, I do love a mumblecore film. And, as is my love for said genre, I’ve been waiting to catch the much hyped Tiny Furniture for the best part of  two years. Finally Criterion have done the decent thing and given it a DVD release. I know, Criterion DVD, that’s fancy talk for arty/international/damn-fucking-good. (delete as applicable)  So, the question on all of your lips, the one that you’re all desperate to ask is this; “How good is it?” The answer, I’m saddened to report, is as follows, it’s rather underwhelming. And that’s despite it being shot in Tribeca. Was there too much expectation on my part? Perhaps. But I did start off loving the opening 30 minutes. It’s witty, hipster-ish in a good way, and rather entertaining. Then it falls into the trap of becoming, what we bloggers in the underground cinemas who smoke our American spirits, drink our black coffee and never leave our house unless it’s to go to the movies call “up it’s own arse.” It’s a technical phrase. It stops being witty and, instead, starts whining about how shit everything is. Now I love a bit of whining, it’s cool with me when others do it even, but this is the cinematic equivalent of that annoying girl we all knew who moans that daddy won’t buy her a new pony. What’s wrong with the pony you already have? I had to make do with a postcard of a horse. Not that I ever wanted a pony in the first place, I just like postcards. I’ve started to digress, but, my point is this, it becomes hipster cliché 101. It’s like every bad article you’ve read on Vice, but filmed, and with a bunch of annoying actors, minus the wonderful Jemima Kirke. Kirke really is the best thing on screen, she’s got a certain self aware charm that all the others lack. (Nothing to do with her being from London, honest….) I really couldn’t believe how much my initial enthusiasm for the film had waned by the time the closing credits arrive.

Now what I do really love about the movie is the cinematography, it’s rather elegant. It’s shot on a Canon 7D, which, as you may know, is a stills camera. And not the most expensive camera in the world either. It’s a great piece of equipment, and, with some nice lenses, you can make a fantastic looking movie that won’t break the bank. So Lena Dunham deserves praise for the film’s quality production, sadly her acting and scriptwriting skills really aren’t as good.

As I’ve said, the opening works wonderfully, but it just can’t sustain it. Dunham certainly showed some potential for future movies, but this ain’t so great…

Marks out of ten  – Six

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36. Cold Weather – Aaron Katz (2010)

First Viewing.

This movie has all kinds of ingredients I love; hipsters, baseball statistics, Sherlock Holmes, some mystery and a trip to a tobacconist to buy a pipe. It can’t fail with content like that! In all seriousness though it’s a very good movie that’s been made with very little money. Katz’s last flick, Quiet City, was one of my top five movies from 2007 and, if I had to pick, the best of the mumblecore bunch (although Mutual Appreciation, Nights & Weekends, Baghead, and My Effortless Brilliance are all contenders, despite averaging less than six out of ten on the useless IMDB rating system.) There’s some debate, sparked by Katz’s comments during a Q&A session, regarding whether this is a hipster-mystery-movie or a story about sibling relationships. Both elements are valid and engaging, making for a good genre movie. The scenery is fantastic, one really gets a feel for the landscape of Portland, and also the downtown urban scene, it’s an interesting juxtaposition of settings – I’m itchin’ to visit Portland now. Surprisingly, for a mumblecore film, this has a pretty strong story running throughout, the “mystery” surrounding the movie isn’t exactly of Hitchcock standard, naturally, but it works well against the usual reserved dialogue of Katz’s films.

If you’ve not seen any of Katz’s films then this is his most accessible work so far and also a good place to start if you’re a mumblecore virgin.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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