Review originally published January 26, 2012 as part of Film.com's coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
"Nobody Walks" was my most looked-forward-to film of Sundance in 2012, and ultimately the biggest disappointment, as it offers nothing in the way of script, character or setting to love.
Martine (Olivia Thirlby) is a young avant garde filmmaker and artist from New York who travels to Los Angeles to get some help on her newest film. Some friends of her family take her in, they are Peter (John Krasinski), a sound designer who works on films, his wife (Rosemarie De Witt), and their daughter and son. Martine and Peter begin a sloppy affair while working together, the therapist flirts with her clients, the daughter is tortured by young love, every dredged up cliche is spoken for and acted upon. "Nobody Walks"? More like "Nothing Happens."
From the first few frames of this film you will learn to despise Olivia Thirlby's face. Yes, normally beautiful and charming, in "Nobody Walks", her face becomes a mawkish leering mess, communicating god-knows-what, just like the rest of the film. When someone conjures up the image of self-important art house films, this must be exactly what comes to mind. There's nothing revelatory to be found here, there's halting dialogue that explains little and illuminates even less. The film is co-written by Lena Dunham, the writer and director of "Tiny Furniture", but unfortunately this isn't enough to do anything but tinge the film with a veneer of smug New York pseudo-intellectualism.
Why is this movie even happening? What happens in it? Director Ry Russo Young and co-writer Dunham are certainly part of the new generation of filmmakers who explore the lives they know through film, but where Tiny Furniture is hilarious and attuned to the realities of today, "Nobody Walks" is a self-important nightmare, especially when it comes to acting. Thirlby is all gagging smiles and vacant stares, but Krasinski and DeWitt should know better. Their considerable talents, particularly DeWitt's, are wasted here by a shallow script and boring situations. Perhaps that is the simplest way to sum up the film, boring. Offensively boring. The characters are never given enough time to explain themselves, and if they can't be bothered to care about anything, neither should we care about them as an audience.
While watching this, one can almost imagine the self congratulatory screenings of the film. "Yes," they must have said to one another, "This is how people really are." These aren't real people, these Los Angeles sycophants who speak in cliches and have half-hearted affairs for reasons that are unclear. These are false prophets at best, and they all exist in such a swamp of misery you can't wait for them to disappear in some sort of purifying fire. If only.