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January 28, 2013

Nobody Walks

by Franz Patrick

Nobody Walks (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Martine (Olivia Thirlby) takes a plane from New York City to Los Angeles to work on adding sound effects for her upcoming black-and-white documentary about bugs. Since she has to work with Peter (John Krasinski) anyway and his family has a pool house that often goes unused, he invites her to stay for the sake of professional convenience. Soon enough, Martine’s presence in the household proves to be unhealthy as she welcomes Peter’s advances and his wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), starts to become suspicious.

Written by Lena Dunham and Ry Russo-Young, “Nobody Walks” strives for an intimate feel but it lacks a central drama that forces its characters to question who they are, what they want for themselves and from each other, as well as how to go on about achieving such wants, and so the screenplay stinks of privilege. Due to poor writing, its subjects are unlikeable without depth to warrant much interest. They make their problems bigger than they should be and we are left wondering when the picture (and the whining) will be over.

The picture is riddled with cutesy scenes, from the flirtatious smiles that Peter sends Martine’s way to Kolt (India Ennega), Peter’s sixteen-year-old stepdaughter, admiring David (Rhys Wakefield), Peter’s mid-twenties assistant. Even more difficult to swallow is the intercutting of Martine’s documentary into real life scenes. It aims to parallel, I guess, the struggles of bugs’ survival and the struggles of mankind’s need to be loved. Although an ambitious thesis, it does not work because the characters’ struggles on screen lack a visceral element for the comparison to be justified. As a person who loves bugs and used to raise all sorts as a kid, I felt insulted for these astonishing and resilient creatures.

The characters most worthy of attention get very little screen time. I liked Leroy (Dylan McDermott), Julie’s ex-husband, because his presence challenged the dynamics of a boring family. Invited over dinner, I enjoyed the way McDermott’s eyes seems to be analyzing whether or not his former wife is happy with her new beau. Leroy makes for an interesting character because he has an agenda. The others sitting around that dinner table appear to be sleepwalking through life. Another presence worth noting is played by Justin Kirk as Julie’s patient. He wishes to be intimate with her and we feel her struggle to resist. As a counselor, of course submitting to her desires would be unprofessional. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want them to test the waters. Kirk and DeWitt share such a wacky chemistry that I wished the picture was mainly about them.

Entropy is an intimate drama’s best friend. Directed by Ry Russo-Young, “Nobody Walks” plays it too safe, mistaking playfulness and tease for transgressions worth blowing up. By the end, we are left with little to no understanding of what makes Martine tick when she is supposed to be the conduit of the would-be life changes in the household. Like a guest that we thought would be fun but turning out to be annoying, we wonder when she’s finally going to leave. And good riddance!


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