The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Nobody Walks

Nobody Walks is like mumblecore with stars. It's 83 minutes of people dealing with ennui, and the plot is minimal, possibly even non-existent. Mumblecore is all fine and dandy, provided that the plotless ennui is interesting. Despite some serious talent in front of the camera, this film bored me to the point of becoming exasperated. It fundamentally fails to make the dilemmas faced by its characters compelling, or even logical.

John Krasinski plays Peter, a sound engineer for movies. He agrees to help a young artist named Martine (Olivia Thirlby) get some sound effects for a short film she's making. Martine stays in the guest house owned by Peter and his therapist wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt). You may be thinking, This is one of those movies where the young woman starts an affair with the married man. You would be correct. Peter is not the only one in a romantic predicament, though. One of Julie's clients is a Hollywood screenwriter who confesses a desire to have sex with her. And Julie's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, Caroline (Jane Levy), is crushing on Peter's assistant while simultaneously failing to notice that her pervy adult male tutor is lustfully eying her up.

There's a great deal of sexual pining going on in Nobody Walks. In fact, most of the film is taken up by that activity. There really is no story being told here; we're merely meant to observe these people as they carry on about their business. That might be okay, except for the fact that director Ry Russo-Young seems to have removed anything that even slightly resembles character motivation. We don't know why any of these individuals are feeling what they feel. They don't even try to figure it out themselves. Consequently, it often feels like the characters are the living equivalent of wind-up toys, set in motion by a force they don't understand and destined to perform pre-programmed actions. Martine is the most confounding character, as she has casual sex with several different men during the course of the movie. It is unclear whether we are supposed to view her as a slut, or an opportunist, or a deeply confused young woman. For that matter, it doesn't make sense why Peter would have a dalliance with her anyway, since the early scenes indicate he and Julie are quite happy in their marriage. They hook up because...well, something has to happen, doesn't it?

For the most part, Nobody Walks has people screwing each other or thinking about screwing each other, then sitting around feeling really, really bad about it. Needless to say, that doesn't exactly make for compelling drama. Krasinski, Thirlby, and DeWitt all turn in serious, committed performances, yet the screenplay lets them down at every turn. Surprisingly, the script was co-written by Lena Dunham, whose own film Tiny Furniture and TV series “Girls” are both smarter, funnier, and more insightful takes on similar subject matter. I couldn't escape the feeling that there was, at some point, more to Nobody Walks - important stuff that got stripped away in favor of “hipster” minimalism.

I love character studies. I love fly-on-the-wall storytelling. Nobody Walks appears to be aiming for these qualities, yet it makes the characters so introverted that we can't comprehend their motivations, and nothing of much importance happens to justify watching them. Each of the subplots ends just as abruptly and pointlessly as it began. We walk away relieved to be free of those stupid people making dumb choices and not even bothering to ask themselves why they're doing it.

( 1/2 out of four)

Nobody Walks is rated R for sexuality, language and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 23 minutes.

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