DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (director/writer: Joe Swanberg; screenwriter: Greta Gerwig/Kent Osborne; cinematographer: Joe Swanberg; editor: Joe Swanberg; music: Kevin Bewersdorf; cast: Greta Gerwig (Hannah), Kent Osborne (Matt), Andrew Bujalski (Paul), Mark Duplass (Mike), Ry Russo-Young (Rocco), Todd Rohal (Brian Duges), Tipper Newton (Minne), Kris Williams (Gaby); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Anish Savjani/Joe Swanberg; IFC Films; 2007)

 
"Goes full blast on geek chatter."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The catchy title translates into a low-tech hyper-verbal slacker-geek romantic comedy directed with good vibes by the 26-year-old Chicago-based indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg ("LOL"/"Kissing on the Mouth"/"Swedish Blueballs"). It features a bunch of inarticulate twenty­somethings trying to articulate what they are all about, that goes full blast on geek chatter and has some nudity thrown in for either reality or shock value or because nipple shots are pleasing to the targeted youthful male viewer. Disarmingly without a plot, it ambles along in a raunchy rambling non-structured way playing on its slacker laid back nature and its own lack of ambition to get it by. The actors are part of the so-called "mumblecore" movement, who are friends who have appeared together in low-budget indie films that bemusedly tell of fragile relationships and of childish young adults who can't or won't grow up. "Hannah" co-stars mumblecore first-class citizen filmmakers Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha) and Todd Rohal (The Guatemalan Handshake), as well as screenwriter Kent Osborne (The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie). It's co-written in hipster style by Osborne, Swanberg and the titular star Greta Gerwig.

Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is a self-absorbed ditsy blonde writing a play about Kant and Newton as horny 13-year-old boys. She's a recent college graduate interning as a writer over the summer at a small Chicago Internet production company, that's working to put on a network show. At work she indulges herself playing mind games with her two brainy nerd colleagues, Paul (Andrew Bujalski) and Matt (Kent Osborne), where Hannah bemoans that “I wanted to be the funny one and I’m never the funny one.” The restless Hannah spends the summer looking for love, but is filled with indecision as she will go through three indistinguishable boyfriends whom she tantalizes and then breaks their hearts. The slacker musician Mike (Mark Duplass), who just quit his job so he can hang out at the beach, is the first to be dumped for no good reason by a sorrowful Hannah after he gives her a present of a diving mask. The next boyfriend is the creepy Paul, the most gifted writer of the group, a workaholic who nearly drools over her and would be her lap dog if he wasn't more interested in his career than the relationship. Hannah then turns him in for workplace rival Matt when she finds out they both love playing the trumpet badly. Every once in a while their obnoxious twenty-something boss Brian Duges (Todd Rohal) pops in to tell them something pretentious, as one time he lectures them about office romances. Also around is Hanna's unemployed roommate, Rocco (Ry Russo-Young), an aspiring musician with a flat personality who fits right in with the other slackers.

These disconnected youths are so messed up inside that they can't make a relationship even though they seem OK on the outside. What's particularly funny is when they become introspective and are so shallow that they say the dumbest things as if they were profound. 

Greta Gerwig could be the sexy poster girl for all the nerd temptresses who are vain and who are there for the slackers but is too emotionally indecisive to really be there for them. This is a film for the ages not because it's deep, but because it isn't deep—it's just what it is.

REVIEWED ON 7/7/2008        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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