Open Five (2010)

20 07 2012

It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people that read this roll their eyes throughout this entire review, but that’s kind of where American independent cinema is at the moment. The whole “mumblecore” movement might be on its last legs with Mark Duplass doing everything short of becoming a mainstream Hollywood celebrity and the movement’s poet, Aaron Katz moving further and further away from the elements that defined the genre. Kentucker Audley maintains these elements, almost definitely because of a lack of funds. With the introduction of the NoBudge website and a steady release of titles, he might be the most resourceful member of this group of filmmakers, whose connection seems loose at best now.

Open Five features plenty of relationships but the bulk of the film revolves around the one between Jake and Lucy. Their past is hinted at in the film’s intimate opening but never given a further explanation. It’s intentional, of course, because the mystery of the relationships in the film reinforces the fact that the film is more of a document, rather than a work of fiction. It helps that the filmmaker himself makes an appearance as a secondary character. Sure, the film’s fractured dialogue might feel a little calculated if one has seen more than two of these types of films, but the sentiment in the scenarios aren’t cheapened by the fact that maybe the dialogue was delivered with a forced sense of authenticity. I’m not saying the acting is too much, quite the opposite, it’s right where it should be but that level is one that will be pretty unremarkable to someone expecting a film, whether it be “arthouse” or not, to be either more involving with the audience or jarring enough that produces a stronger emotional response.

In his write-up of the film, Craig Keller mentions that the film “slows down onlookers’ attempts to count to ten. […] It’s like stopping at seven” and I’m not entirely sure what he’s referring to here, but it is a weirdly accurate description of both this and Team Picture. These films aren’t austere enough to gain a larger acceptance among the strictly art house crowd, and they’re obviously too fragile to be placed on the same shelf as Cassavetes, but the rhythms, from my perspective at least, seem way more in tune with modern human interaction. Perhaps it helps being in your twenties and understanding the culture of the characters, but the artifice of the performances seem to grow from something aesthetic. Under a different (read: more expensive) lens, Open Five might be the sort of film that an entire generation would gravitate towards.

This seems like a bit of an obvious observation but the DV potentially drains the energy of a film that is brimming with nervous anticipation and uncomfortable interactions. The film is easy as hell to relate to, but it might be subdued by the fact that it is so much in the low-budget mold. This is not exactly a criticism as it an observation. Audley is observant and amusing, touching upon little moments that are almost too perfectly real to be in a movie, but the simplicity might underwhelm many. Hell, it probably already has. Audley deserves the crown for producing the most uncomfortable setups of any of low-budget brethren. It sounds like the snobbiest proclamation but many of the things (and there are many) that will irk individuals and prevent them from enjoying this film are the very things that make it truly wonderful.

At only a little bit over an hour, Open Five is not perfect and it doesn’t really have the ending that is satisfying but at the risk of sounding stupid, it does capture something intimate and it does it perfectly. Many will find the conversations mundane and stupid, and they are right but there is something so on the ball about the film’s simulation. In fact, that might be the film’s biggest fault. It’s a little too perfect in it’s representation of the current generation of young people. It’s almost stuck in the same way Alex and Jake are stuck in their relationship. That’s corny as hell, but the film’s biggest strength might be its inability to provide any closure. It’s the weirdly specific sequences that save us from the mundane conversation that provide the most beauty. It’s complicated and even embarrassing, but it’s right. And something should be said for filmmakers who truly get it right.




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