[Review] – Nobody Walks

2 Nov

Title: Nobody Walks
Year: 2012
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Writers: Ry Russo-Young and Lena Dunham
Starring: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jane Levy, Justin Kirk, India Ennenga
MPAA Rating: R, sexuality, language and some drug use
Runtime: 83 min
IMDb Rating: 5.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Metacritic: 52

I had heard, from people I like and trust, that Nobody Walks, a film that won a Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, wasn’t that good a movie, that I would most likely find it pretentious as well as too damn meandering and failing to add up to much at all. With those people, I respectfully disagree, there’s stuff that’s faulty in this movie, there’s no question about it, but it’s far from being bad, it’s a film that offers up this wonderfully compelling collection of little moments that are just brilliantly observed by writer-director Ry Russo-Young.

Of course, I imagine quite a lot of the props must go to Ms. Young’s co-writer in this film, the tremendous Lena Dunham who, both in her Criterion-approved debut feature, Tiny Furniture, as well as in her stunning, Emmy-nominated HBO series, Girls, specializes in these microscopic portraits of ordinary events in the lives of her characters. Her mark is evident here, in how it’s insightful about young women, but then again her mark isn’t as loved by many as it is by me, so I can see the case for some not really liking Nobody Walks all that much, it’s just that I kind of did.

Props also have to be given to the talented cast this film has assembled. Olivia Thirlby, who’s probably best known for having played the best friend to the title character in Juno but who should become something of a star sooner rather than later if the world is fair, plays Martine, this 23 year-old artist who moves from New York to Los Angeles to work on her film. She moves into the pool house of a relaxed, well-off Californian family who are friends of a friend, a husband and wife duo played by John Krasinski and Rosemarie DeWitt and through the duration of her stay there and her process of finishing this film of hers every single person involved will experience some vital changes in their lives.

I liked this film a good deal. There’s stuff that’s off about it, that’s for sure and I won’t waste time pretending that’s not the case, but the thing is that I love films that, like this one, aren’t afraid of going into some really messy and raw territory, that don’t walk away from getting into some really frank depictions of what comes with love and lust. Nobody Walks embraces that, it’s your typical slice-of-life, intimate, quiet indie movie that gets to the bottom of this often-awkward predicaments that mess up their characters lives because of how each one of them is seemingly longing for the wrong person.

Peter, the husband played Mr. Krasinski, is a sound engineer in Hollywood and agrees to help out Martine with her project and he obviously falls for her. I say obviously because it’s even obvious to his wife, Julie, a therapist who says she can see the attraction, is probably a bit attracted to Martine herself and just asks Peter not to embarrass her. Peter’s young assistant also develops a thing for Martine which sucks for Peter’s younger daughter because she likes him. You can kind of see how it goes, this Martine girls really comes in and stirs up the pot.

The cast really is excellent. Ms. Thirlby plays this manic pixie dream girl, complete with the short hair and everything, that seems to have clawed out of a French movie from the 70’s what with her ability to absolutely win a man over with just a look. And she plays Martine like she just doesn’t give an eff, like she doesn’t see herself as the cause of these lustful games that start going on around her. She gets Peter under her spell and then, ever so nonchalantly hooks up with his assistant and when Peter gets jealous and confronts her about it to which she barely replies “dude, you’re married!”.

It’s cool to see this film tackle those things, those many flirtations and what happens when they are consumed. Julie, for instance, does think Peter is sort of embarrassing her, making a fool of himself in front of her and she’s ever so calm in the surface but, because this is an eye-for-an-eye world we live, considers cheating herself, with a patient who has openly said wants her. The thing that I thought set Nobody Walks apart though is that it doesn’t throw these undeniably erotically-charged situations around for the fun of it.

What I mean by that is that it doesn’t pass on judgement nor does it pigeonhole its characters into cheap labels. Martine isn’t the home wrecker figure she could have so easily been, Peter isn’t the vulnerable guy who falls for the pretty young thing and cheats, Julie isn’t the victim wife. These are confused characters who deal with the complexity of the situations they’re thrust into, and we see their pain and their lives just going wildly out of control.

None of these characters are innocent and none of them are fully guilty, either. That’s what I loved, the fact that, ultimately, these are just people who desperately want to find happiness and who grasp onto something they think will provide that for them even though fulfilling it, giving into their desires, will ultimately destroy or hurt their lives and that of those close to them. I loved how messy it was and how unapologetic it was about it, simply saying (correctly) that that’s how life is.

Yes, like I said, the film is far from perfect. Much like the lives of its characters are a mess so is the structure of the movie itself; it kind of meanders from one episode of flirtation, embarrassment and awkwardness to the next without all that much narrative string tying them together. Still, I found it impossible to look away, I just had to see these people pretty much self-sabotaging their lives, all of it thanks to this gorgeous woman so wonderfully acted by Ms. Thirlby who I don’t see as the cause for the break in the foundation of these people’s lives, but instead as the one that made the cracks widen.

Grade: B

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