Tuesday, March 11, 2008

HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (2007)

HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS
***½
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 83 minutes
Director: Joe Swanberg (LOL; Kissing on the Mouth)
Writers: Joe Swanberg (LOL; Kissing on the Mouth) and Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Andrew Bujalski, Kent Osborne, Mark Duplass, Ry Russo-Young, Kris Williams, Kevin Bewersdorf

There has been a lot of comparisons with the indie “mumblecore” movement and the French New Wave movement of the late ‘50’s/’60s. Ken Fox, TV Guide’s movie critic, praised mumble masterpiece “Mutual Appreciation” particularly as New Wave worthy. I, for one, agree. The realism- rooted in it’s mostly improvised dialogue and natural performances (mostly by indie rock musicians) - is something, I think, Godard and Rohmer would be proud of (I wonder if Eric Rohmer has in fact seen any of these pictures. I really do think he would love them). Watching Joe Swanberg’s (also a member of the band The Ice Cream Floats) latest addition to the mumble genre, I couldn’t help but get the same feeling I did from “Mutual” and it’s predecessor “Funny Ha Ha” (both are quite wonderful if you haven’t had an opportunity to see them yet). Andrew Bujalski, the writer/director/star of the aforementioned movies, even appears as one of Hannah’s boyfriends. I say “one of” because Hannah, the film’s heroine, seems to go through boyfriends like disposable water cooler cups. Hannah (wonderfully played by the film’s “co-writer” Greta Gerwig) is like most of the “mumblecore” female protagonists. She is in her mid-twenties and kind of going through life in an odd way- not necessarily sleepwalking, but she appears to be so anxious for something interesting to happen to her that she creates drama for herself. When the film begins she is dating a perfectly decent boyfriend named Mike (Mark Duplass of “The Puffy Chair”). She is unnecessarily bored with him and has developed a crush on one of her co-workers, Paul (Bujalski), a blogger who is on the verge of having a book published. After a party where Mike impresses her co-workers with his wit, she complains to her roommate that she wants to be the funny one, not him. She dumps Mike the next day and is upset that he takes it really well (“I thought I’d be really upset, but I’m actually okay with this”, he tells her). Hannah immediately moves on to Paul and creates some jealousy in the office with Paul’s best friend, Matt (Kent Osborne). Hannah notices and then starts to take interest in Matt- especially after her roommate expresses interest in him too. Gerwig is unabashed when it comes to expressing the self put upon short comings of her character. Although a lot of the dialogue is improvised, the situations she helped create as a co-writer are probably at least mildly autobiographical. Instead of presenting her character in a positive light, she almost makes Hannah the bad guy. After all, Mike and Paul make good boyfriends, yet she can’t remain complacent. She reminds me- and will remind you- of real people you know. That’s what makes this genre so original. The characters come across as actual people- they say and react in ways that normal people from this generation would say and react. Of course, like all “mumblecore” movies you’re either going to be fascinated or bored to death. The action in these movies are mostly through conversation (once again much like most of the New Wave movies). If, you are however, tired of the Hollywood clichés of Generation Y then “Hannah Takes the Stairs” is the perfect antidote. There’s a happy ending, but you can’t help but wonder if Matt is just the next set of stairs for Hannah to take before she moves on to another. Wherever she is climbing, she still has a long way to go.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The Ice Cream Floats- Sundae
Keegan DeWitt- Reckoning

Buy the DVD here

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1 comment:

Sarah said...

They should have called this movie "Hannah shows her boobies a lot, takes lots of showers with other people, and dates every nerd she's in consistent contact with." It was slow, but I didn't hate it.