When All is Said and Dunham: Nobody Walks

10/17/2012 4:00 AM |

Nobody Walks
Directed by Ry-Russo Young

I have no knowledge of the division of labor between Young and Lena Dunham as this film’s screenwriters. But if I had to guess, I’d say the latter wrote many of the lines for Martine (Olivia Thirlby), not because the character, a photographer and aspiring experimental filmmaker, recalls Dunham’s slacker-auteur persona, but because her phrasings sometimes have her offhand-yet-pointed way with words. When Martine meets Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), an older friend of a friend, she recognizes her from photos of a group “sitting around a pool, looking focused.”

As magnetic as Thirlby usually is, such lines sound stilted coming out of her mouth—though to be fair, that’s true of most of the small, talented cast. Martine arrives in Los Angeles to stay with Julie and her sound-guy husband Peter (John Krasinski) so he can help Martine with her first film. Martine and Peter develop an ill-advised attraction, as do several other pairs of characters, placing Nobody Walks in the weird subgenre of Los Angeles creative upper-class relationship drama. It’s Laurel Canyon lighter on the psychology, or a Jenny Lewis song lighter on the beauty.

Young isolates her actors in one-shots to the point that they don’t always feel like they were on set the same day; even when she cuts to two-shots, proving that they were, the movie maintains that awkwardness. The sense of isolation may be intentional, but it gives Nobody Walks a bizarre soap-opera artifice even though the story is neither soapy nor particularly operatic. There are a few striking moments, like a shot following a foregrounded Martine lingering outside Peter and Julie’s house, watching them through a window. But none of the relationships develop past furtive glances and half-finished fights; by the halfway mark, the wispy characters and the movie they inhabit already feel like dust in the smog.

Opens October 19