As ironic-vaporous as an indie comedy can be and still exist in projectable form, Bob Byington’s fifth sad-sack farce focuses on the affectless Max (Keith Poulson), an everyloser whose studied disinterest somehow lures both a hedonistic lifelong buddy (Nick Offerman) and a spacey blond waitress (Jess Weixler). Years pass, a marriage forms and then busts, fortune comes and goes; Max never ages, nothing much ever matters. You can’t say Byington doesn’t have a vision: His movie is a cinematized shrug full of meaningless discursive conversations, and the consistency of its apathy can be charming, until it grows irritating. (“Are you good in bed?” Max lazily asks his date. “I get about eight hours,” she answers.) It’s the kind of ’80s-indie-style comedy in which inappropriate behavior plus blank-faced reaction is supposed to equal hilarity.
Everything from the scrupulously listless acting and cutesy score to the lack of effort expended on any kind of narrative conviction is part of the bone-dry hipster joke—including the fact that viewers are sitting there, probably deadpanning in sync. Totally invested in their cartoony roles, Offerman and Weixler have plenty of witty gestural moments, and there are scattered flashes of invention. But the time-killing universe Byington has created makes sure we never forget how absurd he thinks the whole movie is. Fun for him, perhaps.
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