J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Slamdance ’17: Withdrawn

In the 1980s, there were speed contests for Rubik’s Cube solving. Apparently, millennials like Aaron need YouTube tutorials just to complete a side. If ever there was a poster boy for the entitled dumbing-down of America, it would be him. Even his criminal schemes are pathetically passive in Adrian Murray’s Withdrawn (trailer here), which screened during the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City.

You really do not want to be flat-mates with Aaron. He will dodge the rent and the utility bills, but he will drink away your booze in stupid internet challenges. Unfortunately, Adrian is struck with him, but at least that means we aren’t. Of course, he is broke as a joke, but he thinks he might have stumbled across a potential windfall when he finds a stranger’s lost credit card. Most decent, law-abiding citizens would try to return the card or just drop it in a mailbox, but not an unproductive, parasitic, Bernie Sanders-voting millennial, who thinks the world owes him something like Aaron. A good deal of the rest of the film is dedicated to quietly watching him trying to hack the card’s pin number, so he can max out a cash advance.

Arguably, Withdrawn covers the self-absorbed millennial milieu better than any previous film, but sadly, none of it is remotely cinematic. Murray and his lead actor Aaron Keogh give navel-gazing mumblecore a bad name. It could very well be Murray faithfully holds a mirror up to nature, but the results are so sleight and inconsequential, they hardly seem to merit our attention.

Frankly, it seems like Keogh was cast for his near complete lack of charisma and energy. Five minutes of watching him putter about will make most viewers feel logey. Murray himself has more presence playing the namesake roommate, but his passive aggressive confrontation-avoidance undermines any possibility of viewer sympathy and eventually induces nausea.

Withdrawn is the most socially awkward, low impact caper movie you will even come across. That might be a truthful commentary on a certain segment of a certain generation, but that does not make it any easier to watch. Murray’s unblinking gaze captures some sharply telling character details, but they never ultimately amount to much. Not recommended, Withdrawn premiered at this year’s Slamdance.

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