“Nobody Walks” is an intriguing but thin romantic drama about one young artist who strolls into Los Angeles and, like a stray electron, tears atoms loose and threatens relationships all around her.
The winsome Olivia Thirlby stars as Martine, a hip New York artist who needs a sound mix for her avant-garde bug documentary. She’s new to the field, so sound editor Peter (John Krasinski) is there to walk her through the process. And like every man Martine meets, he’s smitten.
She may play coy with the men who enter her orbit – she belatedly rejects a stranger she met on the flight over just as they’re about to have sex in the LAX parking garage. But she’s not shy about using one and all, blithely sailing along on where her sexual impulses take her.
Peter is married to psychotherapist Julie, played with a professionalism that barely masks her sexual curiosity by Rosemarie DeWitt (“Rachel Getting Married”). Julie is smart enough to see Peter’s “little crush” but also is smart enough to resist the blunt, cocky advances of her screenwriter patient (Justin Kirk of TV’s “Weeds” and “Animal Hospital”). “You’re too witty to be a professional listener,” he purrs.
Julie has a sexually awakening 16-year-old, Yma (Emma Dumont), with a crush on David (Rhys Wakefield), Peter’s twentysomething studio assistant. That makes her resist the shy advances of a classmate and a frankly predatory older tutor who teaches her Italian – starting with Italian sexual come-ons.
It’s from the director of “Hannah Takes the Stairs” (Ry Russo-Young) and the writer of “Tiny Furniture” (Lena Dunham), but it lacks the charm and wit of those films.
“Nobody Walks” is more mysterious, revealing its relationships and interconnections slowly, something an 80-minute film can ill afford to do. Especially one with this many characters and relationships to develop and follow.
Thirlby doesn’t make Martine any deeper than the poseur fully aware of where her looks can take her. But Krasinski and DeWitt make us feel the pain and confusion of a marriage being tested, people who know they should be smarter than this.
“Just don’t embarrass me,” Julie tells Peter, two steps ahead of him.
And Kirk, cast on the nose as a smarmy, rich writer on the make, ratchets up the temptation for Julie, a woman who knows she’s about to be cheated on.
Like a lot of films in the chatty genre labeled “mumblecore,” “Nobody Walks” glides by on little money, few incidents and a lot of conversations – some of them without words. It may lack the charm you expect out of these movies, the best of which can make you feel you’re discovering real people failing to grapple with real issues, even if they’re inconsequential. But having the benefit of a talented, “name” cast, it also avoids being as unwatchably indulgent as some of its mumbling forebears.