Done Before, Done Better

'Nobody Walks' doesn't break any new ground as a tale of Southern California infidelity

A Los Angeles family lets a really pretty girl into their house for an elongated visit and, surprise-surprise, infidelity and other sorts of trouble ensue.

Nobody Walks is the latest from co-writer Lena Dunham, who penned and directed the very good Tiny Furniture. While the movie has some tasty visuals and a dreamy soundtrack, the story doesn't quite cut it. In fact, it's quite predictable and boring for the most part.

The really pretty girl is Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a supposed artist looking to finish her art film with the help of freelance sound engineer Peter (John Krasinski). This is one of those films that presents an "artist" who is supposed to be very talented, but the film she's working on in this movie is stupid. It's just black and white footage of bugs that is meant to be "deep." Well, it's not. It's just a bunch of bugs running around.

And nothing Martine says is all that enlightening or profound, especially when directing her movie. Peter instantly finds her talented, which I suppose is a direct sign that he wants to get some and cheat on wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt).

Julie has her own potential infidelity farm a-growing. She's a therapist with a sleazy screenwriter (Justin Kirk) client who tells her of the sex dreams he's having—with her in them. None of this is at all surprising or entertaining. It's well worn, run of the mill territory.

Where the movie lights up a bit is in the story of young Kolt (India Ennenga), a budding writer with a gross Italian tutor and a crush on Peter's assistant (Rhys Wakefield). Ennenga delivers the film's best performance as a teenager with the biggest brain in the house. Had the film been more about her, it might've been interesting. Ennenga is a featured actress on HBO's Treme, if you are looking for her beyond this movie. I think she has a future.

The film features a few sequences with Peter and Martine recording sound for her movie. They point a microphone at the pool, at a squishing lemon, etc. Peter is supposed to be some sort of sound genius and Martine an astounding artist, yet nothing they do together seems all that remarkable. Unless you consider popping bubble wrap into a microphone remarkable. They might as well be doing macramé rather than making a movie.

Director Ry Russo-Young is trying to show us a quiet Southern California in her film. While the family does attend a party at one point, most of this film takes place in a Silver Lake home hidden quietly in the hills. This part of the country is always portrayed as a little insane, so it's refreshing to see a film set in this locale that acknowledges all parts of Los Angeles aren't out of hand.

Thirlby is one of those actresses I want to like so much, but I just haven't been given a good enough reason. I liked her just fine in Juno, and she was OK in Dredd, but she's failed to knock me out so far. Martine is an annoying character at best, but that isn't totally her fault.

It's not a well-written, engaging character to start. She's basically an insecure person who can't help but make out with any decent-looking man within mouth range. If there was a way to make this rather stereotypical character someone worth rooting for, Thirlby, the director and her crew did not find it. She's actually quite diabolical, but remarkably dull at the same time.

Krasinski does much of the film's heavy lifting as the cheating hubby. While the film doesn't necessarily give a reason for why Peter would cheat (he seems happy in his marriage) it is an acceptable notion that these sort of things just happen sometimes. But Peter's downward spiral into jealous rage seems a little forced and out of place. Krasinski does these scenes well enough, but they feel silly in the end.

Dylan McDermott has an unmemorable, small part as Leroy, Julie's famous musician ex-husband, and Kolt's father. His presence in the film is another attempt by the movie to show this family as forward thinking and "free." They are so cool to let the ex come over and sit at the dinner table. Too bad that ex is an unconvincing Dylan McDermott in autopilot mode.

Nobody Walks isn't a total loss. I liked the soundtrack music by Will Bates and Fall On Your Sword, along with the excellent cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt. As dopey and mundane as the film can get, it often looks and sounds good.

Good music and nice visuals aside, this feels like a movie that has been done before, and done better.

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