Nobody Walks (**½)

‘Nobody Walks’ is a strange little film. Somewhat of a West Coast take on the Mumblecore sub genre, the movie itself is a really well acted drama that consists of a whole lot of scenes that don’t really piece together that well. Almost every moment here in this character study is a little one, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn’t jive well with the themes that co-writer/director Ry Russo-Young is trying to put forward and ultimately leaves the actors stranded out on an island. The likes of Olivia Thirlby, John Krasinski, and Rosemarie DeWitt are all notably good, along with the rest of the cast, but Russo-Young’s script that she co-wrote with Lena Dunham just doesn’t give them enough to do. The actors try their best, but it’s just not quite enough. There’s nothing in this flick that’s really that bad, but it’s too limp, slowly paced, and feels way longer than 82 minutes. That’s not a recipe for success. Individual scenes work, and certain quirks of the story are interesting, but overall this just isn’t especially worth making an effort to see. The indie marketplace is getting more and more crowded by the day, so you need to be better than decent to stand out, and ‘Nobody Walks’ does not stand out at all.

The plot is essentially the age old story of an outsider entering a new environment and throwing off the lives of everyone around them. Here, we have New Yorker artist Martine (Thirlby) heading to Silver Lake in California to work on a film project of hers. She’s staying with a friend of a friend Julie (DeWitt) so she can work with her husband Peter (Krasinski). Julie and Peter live in a big house with their talented teenage daughter Kolt (India Ennenga) and young son Dusty (Mason Welch), all of whom are artistic in their own way. Martine is using Peter to help with the sound design on her project, but before long they’re beginning to get too close for comfort. The way they interact begins to bug therapist Julie, who in turn begins somewhat leading on a patient Billy (Justin Kirk). Martine also has an attraction to David (Rhys Wakefield) who in turn immediately falls for her, which irks Kolt, who’s in love with David. As you can see, Martine has upset the flow of the household, and it’s all destined to crumble in spectacular fashion. The thing is…it never quite does.

What saves this film from being a trying experience are the really good performances all around. In many ways this could have been a stage production, so the actors in turn are able to play a lot and really try and bring out things in their characters that aren’t necessarily on the page. Leading the way is Olivia Thirlby, who’s rarely been better than she is here. Very much the outsider unaware of the havoc she’s causing, Thirlby gives her character a depth that transcends the mere moping that you often see her do. Essentially, it’s a better performance than the film itself deserves. Also doing top notch work for their career is John Krasinski in a role unlike any he’s had before. Normally known for playing nice guys, there’s an edge her that’s quietly understated but always present. Krasinski shows real range here and impressed me in a big way. As for Rosemarie DeWitt, she’s solid as always, if a bit underutilized in the film. DeWitt has a bigger role during the second half, but initially she seems extraneous. She’s good in the role, but her character is more forgettable. India Ennenga is also utilized less than she should have been. She’s one to watch. Also on hand we have Dylan McDermott playing Julie’s ex-husband/Kolt’s father, plus the likes of Jane Levy, Sam Lerner, and the aforementioned group of Justin Kirk, Mason Welch, and Rhys Wakefield, plus more. All are solid, but none really elevate things like Thirlby and Krasinski do.

Ry Russo-Young’s direction has some interesting elements to it, but she’s never able to do enough with the script that she co-wrote with Lena Dunham to make the endeavor worthwhile overall. Russo-Young plays around with sound a lot, which makes sense considering Peter’s job, but it’s never used enough to really be more than just a fun moment here and there. I wasn’t a fan of the horror flick ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ at the recent New York Film Festival, but there’s a film that did the same thing, only better. She can direct her actors though, so there’s that. As for the screenplay, it just doesn’t add up to anything really in the end. It’s observational, but what we’re watching isn’t interesting on a consistent basis. There’s a good movie potentially in their somewhere, but they’re not able to find it.

You certainly could find a lot of worse things to see in theaters than ‘Nobody Walks’, but I can’t really see anyone rushing out to see it. Even Lena Dunham’s biggest fans don’t have enough here to make it worthwhile. The performances are good, but for me that just wasn’t enough in this particular case. If you’re really eager to see this one I won’t stop you, but be forewarned that it’s not exactly a movie for the ages. ‘Nobody Walks’ is an art film, but it’s just not an especially memorable or particular good one in the end.

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