“Mumblecore” as a movie genre is pretty much gone, but it survives in spirit in a daft little laugher titled “Pretty Problems,” a comedy scripted by its cast and that taps into that relative deprivation thing that the social media era just made worse.
Not that Lindsay (Britt Rentschler) and Jack (Michael Tennant) are social media whores, mind you. They’re kind of muddling along, marriage on auto-pilot, accepting the fourth-choice “careers” that they’re in, the last to figure out the spark has gone out of their sex lives.
Jack’s got a probation officer, we learn from their pillow talk. Lindsay keeps calling him a parole officer, like she or any of us would know the difference. Jack does. But he can’t complain about her never getting this right because we get a quick dose of his listening skills.
Another day, another endless procession of doors slammed in his face as Jack tries to sell solar installations. Lindsay at least can sneak sips of wine that the owner of the designer consignment boutique where she works serves And she gets to wear the clothes as part of the job.
That’s how she meets Cat. This force-of-nature customer has the perfect makeup and highlights and supervised fashion sense of money. She sizes Lindsay up and zeroes right in on her insecurities.
“You look amazing, right? SAY it!”
Cat decides they’re to be best friends. Cat spends a pile of cash to get “Lindz” a fat commission. Cat is determined that Lindz and her hubby should come to a gathering at her and her husband’s place up in Sonoma.
Again, they just met. And Jack, well aware that this is not the life they planned to have together can’t afford to say “No” to his generally disappointed life. Even if he figures this is some sort of “purge” trick and that the rich are luring them out of town to kill them for sport.
They join catty Cat, her rich husband Matt (Graham Outerbridge) for the weekend. Lindsay and Jack have no idea how bad they have it until they take in everything that the rich and not-really-famous enjoy.
It turns out it’s Cat’s birthday. It turns out, Cat and Matt’s wealthy friend Kerry (Alex Klein) and Carrie (Charlotte Ubben), his latest squeeze, are already there.
And the house, tucked into vineyards and acreage, turns out to be in Healdsburg, not Sonoma. It also has a…look.
“That’s a murder house, a house where murders happen.”
Maybe. But probably not, as the movie is about two have-nots partying with the casually, irresponsibly rich, people who have servants, guest houses and guests “investigated” before they arrive.
Somehow, Matt knows all about Jack, even his favorite beer. But you can’t get it in the U.S. Matt did.
“He bought my favorite brewery.”
A weekend of indiscretions, inappropriate over-sharing, name-dropping, drinking, drugs, throwing around money and throw-away lines ensues.
“I was a trainer at Sea World…quit that when it stopped being cool.”
“Should we smash John Mayer’s guitar?” “John MAYER’s guitar?” “YES, it’s John Mayer’s guitar. He plainly left it because he didn’t want it!”
Kerry’s new girlfriend Carrie is too drunk and gets sick.
“Turn her on her side,” Kerry says, half-assing his gentleman friend responsibilities.
“Oh, that’s nice,” Lindsay says, impressed with his thoughtfulness.
“I just don’t want her throwing up on those hair extensions” which he must have paid for.
Karaoke and pretentious wine tastings, a shaman session, a staged murder mystery dinner and lots of drinking and “microdosing” and lessons on how the monied look after each other gives Jack and Lindsay’s marriage just the sort of beating you’d expect.
“Pretty Problems” isn’t a laugh riot, but it chuckles along on just-bright-enough dialogue writing and Nolan’s loose and louche way with those lines.
“Wink wink, I am sooooo inappropriate!”
Concerns arise and revelations complicate them, because of course they do because nobody here can keep a secret or figure out when to shut up.
No, this isn’t of the “Frances Ha,” “Jeff Who Lives at Home” or “Drinking Buddies” class. But the chatter is funny and the drunken acting-out just amusing enough to make these “Pretty Problems” pretty cute and easy to sit through.
Rating: unrated, drug references, alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Britt Rentschler, Michael Tennant, J.J. Nolan, Charlotte Ubben, Graham Outerbridge, Alex Klein
Credits: Directed by Kestrin Pantera, scripted by Michael Tennant, Britt Rentschler and Charlotte Ubben . An IFC release.
Running time: 1:46