I’m reaching an age where it takes a lot for me to stay focused and interested in contemporary independent film and music.
I’m reaching an age where unless a film has a point or a song is originally written, displays some sort of individual talent and doesn’t sound like a band I heard back in the 60’s-90’s, I fall asleep, turn it off, or get up and leave.
This sort of behavior does not make it easy for me to go to the theater with friends or listen to music recommendations. Because of this, I’m absolutely not in the know on what is indie-urban popular, because, well, most of the time I think it’s absolute shit.
This goes against the idea of being a “hipstercrite”, I guess. I really can’t go on and on about how I hate Lana Del Rey, talk about what movies are currently hot at Sundance or manifest Ryan Gosling memes.
The alternative, the irreverent and the ironic is my bag, but lately I’m finding a lot of it forced and showing lack of skill. More often than that, I’m finding that all of it seems like a constant rehashing of other’s work. The awkward jokes I’ve heard before, the mumbling true-to-life dialogue is overplayed and the beats sound like everything we listened to back in the 80’s.
I can not fall into the group who says they loved Bellflower even when I didn’t. I just can’t.
This discovery has become very disheartening to me because the independent spirit is the only mantra I want to live by.
A film I recently watched that helped me to realize my apathy towards independent contemporary work is Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham.
If you’re not familiar with this film, it is the more than loosely-based story of the now 25 year-old filmmaker’s post-collegiate life. From what I’ve read- because I could not get through the entire film- I don’t think much happens in the story other than a early twenty-something making bad choices and asking the question, “What do I do with my life?”. The film stars her mother and sisters as their film-counterparts and Dunham acts as herself, sans make-up, with unflattering clothing choices and all.
Dear God I wanted to like this film. When explained to me and then while watching the trailer, I was convinced this was going to become my new favorite movie. I loved that Dunham wasn’t trying to become some glamorous actress but rather said, “This is me! Cellulite, pimples and all!”
I loved that this was going to be a story I could relate to.
I loved that a young woman wrote and directed it.
What I found instead was a story completely unrelatable with a filmmaking technique, that though popular with others, I find skillfully questionable. The heroine drifts through her twenty-second year going to art shows, living in her artist mother’s TriBeCa loft and having witty “Gilmore”-esque battles with her sister. Though the dialogue could often be clever, I found that the script was a Juno-“Gossip Girl” hybrid that made it impossible for me to find a side to latch onto. I found myself thinking something critics stated that I didn’t want to think- The character was whiny and annoying.
But I wanted to like her! This was to be my story too!
The shots in the film were stationary, which though many scenes were filmed in interesting locations (mother’s loft, East Village fire escapes) and therefore looked like a photograph, I often find such shots ineffective at propelling the story along. This idea can work when you’re Wes Anderson and have a cast that consists of seasoned talent, which are two things this film did not have.
After turning off the movie, I had to have a sit down with my self and ask, “Lauren, are you just not a fan of this movie because you are jealous? Because you want to be a 25 year-old indie darling?” After much though it was then I realized that I could no longer relate to many of the work coming out of independent cinema and music.
Many others liked Tiny Furniture and I’m glad that they did. The film won festival awards and Dunham has since landed a deal with HBO to create and star in a similar mumblecore story about young women living in New York City called “Girls“. A TV show that I feel my cultural make-up should like, but I ultimately won’t.
Lately I’ve found myself enjoying more conventional film and music and I want to throw myself off a bridge.
What happened to me? Has independent art drifted into an area I can no longer stand behind, or am I just growing up?