Monday, October 13, 2008

Nights and Weekends

Emotional intimate inadequacy is the hallmark of twenty-somethinghood and the film Nights and Weekends confronts the sometimes mindless minutiae of it all. Written, directed, and starring Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, Nights and Weekends hits some of notes with pitch perfect precision and at times falls prey to being too precious for its own good.

Shot in the now trademark Mumblecore style (still one of the most inept names for a film movement) Nights follows Mattie and James, twenty-somethings struggling with the pitfalls of a long distance relationship while still coming to grips with their internal longings and confusion.

True to its Mumblecore bone, scenes unfold realistically, albeit at times maddeningly elongated, with moments so precise with its insignificant conversation banter that its hard not to yearn for some concern for pacing. Yes, Mattie and James talk real, act real, make love real (I'm pretty sure I've Swanberg's penis more often in past few years than my own), yet this emphasis on real doesn't necessary make an effort to tell a cohesive real story.

Nights and Weekends has some beautiful moments of intimacy between Swanberg and Gerwig, from her longing glances during a photoshoot to the awkwardly mannered attempt at seduction later in the film. Yet these wonderful intimate moments are too often undermined by dialogue that's more bratty than pithy. They love each other and their struggle to understand each other and we indentify with this love, but is it enough to form the basis of a whole movie?

Long knowing (and unknowing) glances, silences left to admire the stillness of being and yearning for more do work- just not in film that aims to have no aim.

Unlike their prior collaboration, the heartfelt Hannah Takes the Stairs or this year's other Mumblecore hit, the surprisingly sweet and satisfying In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Nights and Weekends lacks a cohesive narrative and plays like a string of disjointed scenes that roll out with an unrefined audition tape finish. Scenes are made to understand their love, but in effect make the couple difficult to root for: Here we see them have sex, next we see them inanely argue over lunch, now they argue in the rain over another dumb thing couples argue about, etc.

Mattie and James' love feels as real as it aims to be, but the film's decision to keep the other facets of their respective lives in the dark makes emphatizing with their longing that much harder. We know the possibilities yet don't know the actual answers to why they broke up and why they yearn to be back together, or why is Mattie alone and James not, but in the end it's hard to know why we should ultimately care at all.

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