Harmony and Me
Directed by Bob Byington
"You know how when you're watching a movie," Jessica (Kristen Tucker) says near the middle of Harmony and Me, "and you're half-way through and you realize you don't care about the characters anymore?" Uh, yeah, are you kidding? I feel that way right now! It takes some majorly misguided chutzpah to allow such cheeky self-consciousness into a movie that feels like a glorified student film, a movie that has nothing going for it: not its ghastly DV aesthetic, not its mangled sense of humor, not its go-nowhere narrative, not its casual non-performances, not its haphazard editing. The characters? Forget about it.
Justin Rice, of Bishop Allen musically and Mutual Appreciation cinematically, stars as Harmony—who the heck is the title's "Me"? The director? Me?—a loser nursing a rent heart; he keeps a locket around his neck with a picture of his ex, Jessica, which he is fond of showing off while dramatically announcing "she's broken my heart, but she hasn't finished the job; she's still at it, she's breaking my heart." Director Byington (RSO) follows Harmony through his daily life in Austin, from piano lessons and his crushing cubicle job to visits with family and friends (including another Bujalski vet, Alex Karpovsky, making this Mumblecore by default) who provide unhelpful counsel in Getting Over Her. Essentially, it's a movie about nothing.
Harmony and Me is supposed to coast by on its deadpan jokes, but the punch lines don't land, thanks to an arbitrary visual sense and editing structure: the film's stylized, post-Seinfeld commentaries and digressions would benefit from a measure of distanced observation that the revoltingly hyper-real video doesn't allow; but worst of all, scenes and shots are cut seemingly at random. The movie has no sense of timing, comic or otherwise; that might be meant to reflect the mess that is the main character's life, but it undermines the yuks that would be the film's saving grace—because it sure as hell isn't the characters. There's a problem when your hero is a jilted lover and the audience is more likely to sympathize with the girl who dumped him.
September 18-24 at MoMA