J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nancy, Please: Put that in Your Thesis

The world anxiously awaits a new PhD thesis on Little Dorrit.  A grad student has promised to deliver, but he is running late.  Conflict with a former roommate will badly sidetrack him in Andrew Semans’ Nancy, Please (trailer here), which opens this Friday at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn.

Paul Brawley thinks he has turned a corner moving in with his girlfriend.  No longer must he endure his anti-social ex-housemate, Nancy. Unfortunately, he left behind his study copy of Little Dorrit, with all his precious notes on the endpapers.  It ought to be a relatively simple matter to retrieve it from Nancy, but things escalate with every ignored call and missed connection.  As Brawley’s frustration with Nancy mounts, both his mental and physical health deteriorates and his relationship suffers.

This film seems to think it has some major jujitsu in store for the audience, but it is nowhere near as clever or shocking as it thinks it is.  Semans makes a key error apparently assuming viewers will automatically identify with a hipster Yale TA rather than a waitress with “bad hair.”  In truth, most viewers will be ready to go all in with Nancy after the first twenty minutes—half an hour at the most.

At least, Will Rogers does his job, maximizing Brawley’s annoying qualities at every turn.  To her credit, Eléonore Hendricks largely manages to preserve Nancy’s ambiguousness, while simultaneously maintaining her intensity.  Santino Fontana also provides some interesting moments as Brawley’s devil-on-his-shoulder friend Charlie.  Yet, it is impossible to invest in the fundamental clash of former housemates.

In all fairness, perhaps your faithful correspondent is not the best person to cover Nancy, Please, having little patience for writers who cannot grind out their hack work, such as Brawley’s tiresome thesis.  Regardless, watching his fall from grace is oddly uninvolving.  It is like recognizing a homeless panhandler was the grade school bully from your past.  Intellectually you can acknowledge the waste involved, but emotionally it leaves you unmoved.  While not an affront to cinema (thanks largely to some interesting supporting performances), Nancy, Please ultimately falls flat and rings hollow.  It opens this Friday (5/24) at the reRun in Brooklyn.