I guess one would have to call this a post-postmodern film, in that it is a
post-modern film about the making of post-modern films. Frankly, that's about
as much "meta" as I can handle.
A group of indie actors, realizing that they are not going to be working
steadily, are inspired to make their own film by a fellow performer who did
just that to get himself a starring role. What does it take? If the film
requires no lighting or special effects, and assuming they write the script
and play all the parts themselves, they can do it for a few hundred dollars
with a home-quality digital video camera and an idea. The latter is the real
problem. Even the most sincere indie effort requires some kind of idea. How to
come up with one?
"Hey, I know. Let's lock ourselves in a cabin in the woods for an entire
weekend and concentrate on nothing else but creating our film."
They give that
a try but, human nature being what it is, other things get in the way.
Alcohol, for example. And love. The group consists of two single young men and
two single young women and the predictable romantic interactions between them,
which are more complicated than they need to be because one of the women is
pursuing one of the guys, while the other guy pursues her. Chemistry rules the
evening and no movie starts to emerge.
While they are out there the first night, one of the women sees something
in the woods which seems to be a man with a grocery bag over his head. It is
apparently not The Unknown Comic. She then dreams of the Baghead. Over breakfast
she tells the others of her experiences. Are they frightened? Not at all. The
leader of the group snaps his fingers and says, "That's our Hitler!"
Metaphorically. The Baghead is just the movie idea they need.
Now the movie, indeed both movies, begin in earnest: the one they are in,
and the one they are writing. They are four people in the words being scared
by a guy with a bag over his head while they write a movie about four people
in the woods being scared by a bag over his head. And they are in a movie. The
one you are watching.
Why don't they have the good sense to go home and finish their movie script
in safety? And just who is the Baghead? I guess those mysteries are the
reasons why you should be intrigued by the movie. The only way I'll spoil it
is by noting that it is ultimately not a horror film, although it shares some
of that genre's characteristics. It is a film about the process of making
That all sounds kinda cheesy on paper, but this mumblecore film actually
has some good ideas, and the resolution actually provides a sensible
explanation. Unfortunately, the basic ideas are ruined by two elements: poor
acting and improvised dialogue. Let's face it, when people get a camera stuck
in their faces and are told to start improvising, they do not come up with
witty and interesting things to say unless they happen to be Robin Williams or
Larry David or John C Reilly. Even great writers like David don't come up with
brilliant dialogue in this way. They write and polish and test out the
material on friends and co-authors. Then they throw out the stuff that fails.
Most of our daily conversations, even those of writers, are mundane or
derivative, and therein lies the essential problem with all mumblecore movies.
Even when the films start with a good idea, that spark is snuffed by 90
minutes of boring dialogue which lacks not only the polish a writer would add,
but also the very presence of a writer.
Here's a tip for you youngsters: actors and writers are two different kinds
of people. You would not hire plumbers to do your algebra homework, so why
would you ask actors to write your movie? Doing so might make the experience
seem real, but you can get that same real experience by listening to your
parents babble over breakfast. If you think other people would be interested
in those same parental conversations that bore you, then you definitely have a
future as a mumblecore filmmaker. But if you still feel the need to eat and
pay the rent, you may want to keep your bartending job at Applebee's.
Greta Gerwig seems to be the Kim Basinger of mumblecore. This
is the second time she has exposed her handsome chesticles in one of these
no-budget creations. (The other: Hannah Takes the Stairs.) Samples follow:
Cass Naumann is an Austin-based
she whipped out her boobs in a
film-within-the-film called We Are Naked. This is the film that inspired
our central characters to make their own.
Frankie and Alice
I don't know jack-shit about this movie, except for two key facts:
1. Halle Berry is in it
2. While filming it, she was captured topless by some naughty fellows with
telephoto lenses. Oh, shame on those cads!