Movie Review: “Post-punk” Slackers babble through “I’ll Be Around”

What do you do…

Once you’ve tattooed that last square inch of available, never-exposed-to-sunlight skin?

Once you’ve run through every hair dye variation know to humanity, and moved on to hats?

Once your sartorial sense has transitioned from “unique” and “edgy” to standard-issue uniform of the tribe, a “get-up” that gives your whole game away in a glance?

Once you’re on your 36th band and 55th band name?

Well, you either take stock and “grow up,” or you grab your bass or Strat and Fender Twin and hike down to the venue where a whole lot of 30somethings just like you gather, and thrash it out, banter-it-up, drink and put off Big Decisions because “Tomorrow is another day.”

With brutal wreck-the-relationship editing, Mike Cuenca’s “I’ll Be Around” could have been something on the order of Richard Linklater’s career and generation-defining “Slacker,” or at least “Slacker” meets “The Decline of Western Civilization” and set in “Portlandia.”

It’s a chatty, over-populated comedy that sprints out of the gate and gets gassed about an hour in. Its tragedy is that Cuenca chose to drag out this shambolic slice-of-the-scruffy-life out for another hour after that.

In urban Petropolis (LA), all the post-punk punks have left 30 behind, but are still waiting on tables, still spending their waiting-on-tables cash on studio time (Who DOES that anymore? A running gag in the movie.), still competing to be heard at the venue of choice, The Mirror.

Performers and bands with names like Avenson, Jentacular, Six Seconds in Dallas, The Motion Pictures, Contre nous and Attempted Choke! vie for spots on this sure-to-be-sparsely-attended “festival” that’s tonight. Before then, they rehearse, try to get out of work early, wrestle over relationships, bicker-bargain with a recording engineer, do drugs, couple, uncouple, make-out with randoms and banter. A lot.

They fight about music, no “cookie-cutter bands” allowed, “none of this romanticized, suicidal nonsense.”

“I’m Mario and you’re Luigi — always second best!”

What’s that?

It’s an AUTOharp? You ain’t never heard of the CARTER Family? You ain’t never heard JIMMY CARTER play before?”

“Can we not sleep with people in other bands? It’s so incestuous!”

“I’m gonna form my OWN band, just to prove, just to prove...”

You’re the star and chain-smoking lead singer (Sarah Lawrence)? Maybe should cut down, try vaping, a manager suggests.

“Did you know that musicians who vape are twice as likely to fire their manager?”

The first act of “I’ll Be Around” is a tsunami of sass, with many many funny lines, even the corny ones.

But there’s very little “establishing” in this “establish who the characters are” portion of the picture. We know Eve (Lawrence) is old enough to question everything about her tiny taste of “stardom” and cynical enough to warn others away from this “career.” We can see Phoebe (Sofia Grace) has burned through her young, beautiful and impulsive 20s, and now feels the need to settle down in her ’30s. “But not with some ‘normie.’ And no musicians…Not some sado-killer who’s a pushover in bed.”

Other musicians, a studio owner/engineer, a barking 60ish concert promoter and a veritable sea of randos clip by, making little to no impression as they do — a “dweeb” in glasses here, a cock-of-the-walk “star” with an over-waxed mustache there.

The obnoxious drunk singer from Jentacular abuses one and all for “stealing our song” or having no talent.

And at about that one-hour mark, the picture quiets down (even as the show is starting) and the screenwriters try their hand at meet-ups, dates, arguments and fights of more substance.

They don’t get there. And as there’s precious little of the music to tie this all together, a giddy romp becomes an LA punk scene Death March.

Edited down to a “Slacker” length series of funny first impressions, encounters and zippy lines, “I’ll Be Around” wouldn’t outstay its welcome. Which it does.

Cast: Sofia Grace, Sarah Lawrence, Brendan Takash, Kat Yeary, Joey Halter, Dew Clapp

Credits: Directed by Mike Cuenca, script by Mike Cuenca and Dan Rojay. An Indie Rights release.

Running time: 2:03

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