Team Picture (Director: Kentucker Audley): Number 5 from indie distributor Benten Films, Team Picture shares the “mumblecore” lo-fi slacker ethos of previous releases like LOL (review) and Quiet City (review) and the rural working-class setting of The Guatemalan Handshake (review). But the film it reminds me of most is Frank V. Ross’ Present Company (review), mostly because of its maddeningly inarticulate protagonist.
In this case, it’s David, played by director Andrew Nenninger (Kentucker Audley is a pseudonym). He’s somewhere in his twenties, living with his roommate Eric, a self-described “really tall guy with a great personality.” It turns out, though, that neither of them have really great personalities, or much personality at all. They spend most of their time just hanging out, drinking beer and lounging in a kiddie pool in their front yard. Neither of them seems to think more than five minutes into the future, and when David’s girlfriend breaks up with him near the beginning of the film, he seems oddly detached. Both of them aspire to some form of creativity: David is writing songs on the guitar, and Eric hints at poems he’s writing (one of which he hilariously reads at an “open-mic” night later in the film). But I get the sense that this is just a way to avoid getting down to the everyday reality of working for a living. Though David does have a job, he soon quits. He’d been working at a sporting goods store managed by his mother’s boyfriend, and it seemed like something she’d arranged for him. Though he’s eager to be free to do what he wants, he really doesn’t have any idea what that might be. As well, he knows that without the indulgence and coddling of his family, he’d be completely lost.
That doesn’t mean he’s close to them. Several excruciating conversations show us that no matter what the social situation, David is unable to function. And though Eric is more chatty, he’s just as emotionally retarded. Though it’s actually very funny in places, it becomes hard to watch these characters for very long, and mercifully, the film clocks in at just 62 minutes. It doesn’t surprise me that a kiddie pool is the nexus of these guys’ lives, since it’s obvious they don’t want to leave childhood behind.
As usual, Benten gives the film the deluxe treatment, with a commentary from both the director and actor/cinematographer Timothy Morton, who plays Eric. As well, a new short film, “Ginger Sand” is included as an epilogue of sorts. In it, Eric and his girlfriend visit David and his girlfriend in Chicago. Though we’re not sure how much time has passed, it’s clear that in this new context, Eric’s eccentricity just makes him look like an asshole. This was almost sadder than the original film. Not coincidentally, the short was produced by Frank V. Ross and shot by Joe Swanberg.
It’s really a bit difficult to criticize filmmaking like this. As I said in my review of Present Company, it feels like watching a documentary, so calling the characters annoying and infantile seems a bit personal. The real test for Andrew Nenninger (he apparently chose the pseudonym Kentucker Audley to hide the film’s existence from his family!), and by extension for all of the so-called “mumblecore” directors, will be whether he can climb out of his own character to become a better filmmaker and tell stories other than his own. I sincerely hope he can.