Review: Nobody Walks (Russo-Young, 2012)

Still from the movie Nobody Walks

From the eminently original Dunham comes this eminently unoriginal drama about a typical modern L.A. family, complete with second marriage, rock star ex-husband, movie industry employment, and precocious private school teenager. The relatively stable household is soon disrupted, however, by Martine, a sexy young house guest who is played by Olivia Thirlby (remember back when she was just Juno’s sidekick?). As a professional sound engineer, Peter (The Office‘s John Krasinski) is to assist Martine, a friend of a friend of his wife Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), in adding sound to a short movie she has created for her art exhibition.

From the moment she comes onscreen, Martine exudes an irrepressible sensuality that seems to drive all the men around her crazy with desire. But it seems not to be her aim to attract them, at least not seriously; she can’t help it if she’s a walking bundle of pheromones spilling sex all over the place. Whatever her intentions, it’s inevitable that married-with-children Peter will also fall victim to Martine’s awesome seductive powers. The astute therapist Julie, however, soon notices that her husband’s attention has wandered. In bed one night, Julie confronts her wayward spouse and demands that he not embarrass her, but Peter seems hell bent on doing just that.

Martine and Peter aren’t the only horny ones in this film, though. Everyone seems to need a piece of the action, from Peter’s stepdaughter Colt (India Ennenga) to her indecent middle-aged Italian tutor (Emanuele Secci) to Peter’s assistant David (Rhys Wakefield) to Julie’s patient Billy (Justin Kirk) to Julie herself. In the world of this movie, there doesn’t seem to be room for anything else but the contemplation of sex and attraction.

The film tries to be thoughtful and mildly profound, but there are too many of those fraught, “meaningful” moments that end up feeling trite and thin. The title seems to be a play on the idea that nobody in L.A. walks (which Martine does after a frustrating interchange with Peter only to get mistaken for being a prostitute), but also that nobody walks free, that actions have consequences, however mild. Still, if this is one of the film’s theses, it is tenuous at best.

“Write what you know,” people recommend, and that’s certainly what these L.A. indie movie types do (though both Dunham and her co-writer/director Russo-Young are New Yorkers, I suspect that by now they’ve spent a good amount of time in L.A.). But I’ve seen too many of these discordant, inconclusive, empty dramas about privileged creative types living in L.A. or Manhattan/Brooklyn, behaving badly and realizing it, and then staring off into space behind the wheel of a car (L.A.) or on the subway (New York). The filmmakers seem to be exorcising some of their own demons, but to little effect, as far as I can tell.

At the same time, I suspected before watching it that Nobody Walks was going to be that type of movie. I still looked forward to seeing it. Why? Looking for a voice myself? Something like that. But I was again disappointed.

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