Review: NESTING, A Non-Stop Parade of Yuppie Problems
I wanted to start this review by saying that for all its faults, at least Nesting is bland and inoffensive, but that statement's only half-true.
While the endlessly tedious and humdrum feature by John Chuldenko is indeed bland, there's plenty of offense to go around. Whether it's the way the film dramatizes and gravely meditates on the most privileged of privileged non-problems, or the smug solution offered up in the closing minutes, Nesting is a non-stop parade of boring, yuppie problems that only the most narrow-minded of individuals will find any reason to connect with.
Like I said, the film begins with the most colossal of non-problems: Our protagonist, Neil (played by a passable Todd Grinnell, channeling a poor man's Paul Rudd) is too happy. He's recently been married to the woman of his dreams, they live in a nice house they're planning to remodel, and he makes an easy living as a secret shopper, basically being paid to lay around in a mall all day. As he relates to his friends in an opening poker game (played with wedding registry gift cards standing in for chips), things just aren't they way he thought they would be.
Apparently his wife, Sarah (the painfully wooden Ai Hillis) is more stressed after having to change careers from freelance photographer to magazine editor -- clearly the most terrible, boring, soul-crushing job anyone could ever have -- and she's just not the same woman he married. Eventually, Neil realizes the only way to kick-start their apparently failing marriage is to pretend they're still poor, crazy twentysomethings and go have a lost weekend in the woods somewhere. However, these plans (which involve buying a used Volvo) soon go awry when the couple drives by the exit for their old stomping grounds, Silver Lake.
Silver Lake, always spoken of by characters in hushed, reverential tones, is presented as a haven for kooky, crazy free spirits and people living young, wild, and free. Never mind the fact that Silver Lake is actually just a gentrified neighborhood with a few organic stores and one indie music venue. (Note: I used to live in Silver Lake. I have friends who live there. It's a fine place, just not nearly the crazy, badass city of weirdos this film makes it out to be.)
Neil and Sarah find their old building, and in the spirit of being wacky, they break in, and then subsequently decide to camp out in their old apartment for the weekend. This of course leads to no good, and threatens their adult lives and professional careers -- you know, those things they both decided they hated twenty minutes ago. Against all odds, our hero couple band together resources that would be impossible without their new adult lives, and we're treated to the film's moral: it's OK to live a carefree life so long as you're rich enough to buy your way out of breaking and entering.
Nesting is purportedly a drama/comedy, but the script is both incredibly dull and remarkably unfunny. Aside from this obvious problem, Chuldenko makes matters worse by peppering his story with copy-and-pasted "young and hip" cues he must have culled from the Internet. Contrived references to pot, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and being in bands abound. The whole thing reads as though it were written by a middle-aged dad trying to convince his kids that he's cool.
The performances are mostly flat, with much of the conflict coming from Grinnell and Hillis blandly arguing and then agreeing for no discernable reason. The two actors are so bereft of chemistry I actually wondered if they met for the first time on the first day of shooting. As far as the technical aspects of Nesting go, the film doesn't look egregiously bad, but the unimaginative photography combined with sets curiously devoid of extras, save for a few scenes that absolutely require a crowd to work, give the film an empty, hollow look.
To sum up, Nesting is a plodding, unimaginative film with a central conflict that barely raises eyebrows amongst the key players, much less any audience unfortunate enough to sit through it. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I'd like to include some constructive criticism, but the sad reality is that Nesting is a film built on a flawed premise, one that would have been better left at the bottom of the scrap pile.
Nesting opens in limited release in the U.S. on Friday, May 11. Check the official site for theatre information.