My Effortless Brilliance Lynn Shelton

My Effortless Brilliance Lynn Shelton
Lynn Shelton's Humpday was a great film, perhaps the most audience-accessible of this new wave of low rent, semi-improvised Mumblecore films. Unfortunately, her previous film, My Effortless Brilliance, is not. In fact, it's probably the worst example of the genre: a terribly navel-gazing and esoteric excuse for a movie. Dylan (Basel Harris) is a semi-successful, Seattle, WA-based writer whose pretentious attitude pissed off old buddy Sean (Eric Lambert Jones) so much it caused Sean to retreat into near-obscurity in the rural Washington interior. Years later, upon the release of Dylan's latest book, he decides, on a whim, to drive to Sean's house for a surprise visit. Sean exudes no emotion upon seeing Dylan. Is he surprised? Shocked? Pissed off? Pleased? Don't know, but the elephant in the room ― the conflict that caused their male break-up ― is never discussed. There's much awkwardness between the two as they struggle to carry on even a simple conversation. The weekend discomfort continues when Dylan's wood-chopping hick buddy, Jim, joins the fray on a hunting trip for (giggle) a local cougar. The two bond over their mutual annoyance of Jim before Dylan has to leave for the big city. So, we have a story about two people fighting, who don't fight, and we don't even know what they're fighting about. What ends up on screen is a lot of shaky camerawork covering lengthy improvised and inane dialogue, which merely fills space in between the overused off-glances and dramatic pauses. A comparison film executed with infinitely more comedy, drama, gravitas and, most importantly, entertainment value is Richard Linklater's Tape, which features two old college buddies in a room rekindling old fires and exposing old war wounds. Even Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy, paced with the same kind of slow, simmering tension, resonates with its tone of melancholy and sombre life reflection. There's much integrity in its filmmaking methodology ― Shelton essentially employs the Mike Leigh approach of developing the script extensively with the actors, as opposed to drafting a traditional screenplay. Watch this film only as practice ground for Shelton's much better executed Humpday. The DVD contains a behind-the-scenes featurette that expounds in more detail the improvised approach, deleted scenes and audio commentary, as well as a trailer. (E1)