Synopsis: A pothead kid’s show cartoonist in Los Angeles spends a weekend trying to sleep with his visiting house guest – a woman from New York who he met on Chatroulett
I love indie cinema for the most part. Often it is where ideas and themes are allowed to flourish and bloom free from the constraints of test audiences and studio pressure. And yet it can also be a breeding ground for ball achingly dull, mumbly and lifeless narratives that feel indie for the sake of being indie. Examples of where a strong hand is needed to keep a director and his cast on course. Uncle Kent falls into this later category.
In anticipation of the rather raved about Drinking Buddies I decided to delve into the back catalogue of Joe Swanberg. He is a true indie filmmaker in that he often writes, directs, produces, DoPs and acts in his films. Uncle Kent was the first up on Netflix and seemed like a possibly interesting idea. A stoner cartoonist in LA meets a girl from New York on Chatroulette and arranges for her to visit for the weekend. Upon her arrival they embark on a series of long, boring and self indulgent conversations about sex, love and all manner of other things I stopped caring about.
There are three main problems with Uncle Kent; 1. Every conversation feels like those ones you get at the end of a party when three or four people are left and have long rambling poorly thought out discussions about “meaningful” topics. Which is fine if you’re also drunk. Except I wasn’t. 2. None of the characters are likeable. They are all dull narcissists or annoyingly neurotic. 3. There is way too much sneaky penis. It was like Swanberg knew his audience would disengage every 10 to 15 minutes and so contrived to attack you with a ninja penis scene. That is to say a scene in which he ninja’d you with a penis. Not a scene involving a Ninja penis. That would have been far more interesting. And in fact the most fascinating part of the whole experience was the 10 minute discussion I had with my wife afterwards about whether Ninja’s have a flap in their robes or whether they pee sitting down. We could not come to a consensus decision
Conclusion: This is what happens when indie cinema thinks that just because there is no studio behind it that scripts, character development and pacing are all optional extras. By all accounts Drinking Buddies is great and an indication of what Swanberg can do with a strong cast and a good script.
Cast: Kevin Bewersdorf, Jennifer Prediger