You Don’t Say. My latest sip of Mumblecore.
Mumblecore may be remembered for what it never said.
That word ^ won’t really mean anything in nine or ten years, I’m betting. But, for now, if you’ve never heard it (and, indeed, most artists ascribed it won’t likely acknowledge it) it is a slang/categorization for a genre of American indie films and directors who go low budget with minimal plot and actors delivering eerily realistic dialogue.
In Hollywood’s golden age, films from Capra, Hawks and Huston captured the snappy vernacular of the day. They had magnificent verve. Tough talk tersely punched in between wordily sprawled maudlin monologues. When we watch old black and white movies, there’s a campy crackle to the dialogue.
But after watching Drinking Buddies - a new film by writer/director Joe Swanberg and the latest to be labeled with this now 11-year-old idea of a genre – I’m wondering how we’ll feel re-watching movies like Funny Ha-Ha or Humpday or Tiny Furniture. Will we be credulous of our characteristics captured in these films the same way we cringe at “what we used to wear…” when we see the wardrobes worn by the Breakfast Club or the hairstyles rocked in Pretty In Pink.
Mumblecore movies deal in the awkward, quiet ditches, specifically deciding not to sift out any “Um’s…” “Uh’s…” or uncertain “Hmm’s…” They perfect the pregnant pause, they fill their sparse screens with room-clogging elephants and they practically shout ellipses at you.
Communicating face to face is a dance where we repeatedly step on each other’s toes, dipping at the wrong point in the song and probably falling off the beat more than once. Mumblecore makes me worry we may never be able to articulate precisely what we mean to say – not just because we’re now an endemically high-strung species with a dangerously fitful and fickle spectrum of self-esteem (thanks, Internet,) but because we are also averse to confrontation.
That’s what’s so beautiful, scary, surreal and undeniable about Mumblecore movies. They all but feel like someone plays a tape recorder of your last week’s worth of earshot exchanges, face to face shit-shooting chats at the office or strike a pained memory chord from that one time you broke up with that person and it all went to pot.
Drinking Buddies follows a couple that hasn’t ever been an actual couple, despite how perfect they are for each other. But there’s always baggage, “each other’s shit,” their circumstances: They’re co-workers, first of… The guy’s already got a steady girlfriend who’s eager to hear wedding bells and the girl’s possibly not sure what she wants yet and so drifts and flirts her way through whoever seems to be at the party and gauged as reputably nice-enough.
He’s holding out hope for her and she’s holding out hope for him but it could never work-out, right? Or could it? Not if they keep getting so blearily drunk on five pints of beer per night!
Drinking Buddies is a nice enough drama (with a few charming sips of comedy), but it’s not the greatest indie-flick you’ll see this year, just as it’s not the greatest, or quintessential Mumblecore movie.
But you’ll likely be drawn in for every minute of it because it just sounds so real to you. Uncomfortable, undeniable, weirdly cathartic.
But is that how you’re going to sound, still, in seven or eight years? Will you speak in complete sentences as though straight from a script or will you still burp out awkward mumblings as a means of just about getting to what you hope to say…
You know what I mean?