Writer/megger Aaron Katz pushes the ‘mumblecore’ envelope, adding the suggestion of a genre plot to the usual navel-gazing slackers that populate these ultra-low budget affairs. Playing out like a cross between a mystery/thriller & a shaggy-dog story, three pals from Portland (natch) run interference (in a highly laid-back manner) when an ex-girlfriend, back in town from big, bad Chicago, goes missing along with a company briefcase loaded with contraband McGuffin. Katz pulls off some neat, nearly abstract suspense maneuvers, often only showing one side of the ‘action,’ and the thing is basically harmless enough. But the life-style details of stunted early adulthood in the NorthWest have been masticated to death in similar fest-ready pics while the mystery/thriller elements come off as half-hearted goofs on secret codes & surveillance snacking. For those who like this sort of thing . . . this is the sort of thing they’ll like; others may be less forgiving.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: While the internet struggles to find a financial model to support the mumblecore movement, the films seem to be falling fast from favor with just a few breakout writers & performers moving on up. But really good zero budget pics get made all around the world all the time. And, blessedly, without the note of self-congratulation that sticks to too many that earn the Sundance seal of approval.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Take two Ari Kaurismaki DVDs and call me in the morning. For a fair comparison, stick to his modest early work, say ARIEL/’88 or THE MATCH FACTORY GIRL/’90.