MRR Review: "Generation Um..."


MRR Review: "Generation Um..."

-- Rating: R (strong sexual content, language, drug use)
Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Directed by: Mark Mann
Genre: Drama

"Generation Um..." begins with John (Keanu Reeves) opening up birthday cards from friends and family he seems to be mostly disconnected from. He lives in a dilapidated apartment with his cousin in New York City, and he has no real ambition in life. He even pointedly says his life is so lame that he is now officially more disappointed in himself than his parents are, which says a lot about his self-perception and his honesty.

Although John doesn't have a large number of friends, he does have a small circle of close ones. Two of them are Mia (Adelaide Clemens) and Violet (Bojana Novakovic), two girls who seem as aimless as John. They are prostitutes who need to get drunk or high pretty much every night in order to deal with their lackluster and sometimes dangerous existence. They are clearly addicts yet neither John nor any of their other friends seem to notice or care. After he steals a video camera from a nearby flash mob, John decides to film Mia and Violet as they spend their day hopping from bar to bar trying to forget how much they hate their lives.

The long day that John, Mia, and Violet share together soon turns into night, and the two ladies try to steel themselves for another night of selling their bodies to strangers. They already seem mentally exhausted from their emotional releases that day, so trying to prepare for their soulless work looks twice as hard. The camera shows the weariness of the two characters as they get ready to face another night out on the streets. It almost seems unfair for them to have to work after the day they've had, but such is life in the big city. Before the credits roll, there is a nice little twist that reveals exactly why the three of them are friends that will likely surprise the audience.

In the age of checking your Facebook page and showing pictures of your daily experiences on Twitter, the characters in "Generation Um..." are decidedly disconnected from the rest of the world. It's as if they live in their own little bubble to escape how different they are from everybody around them. John may live with his chipper cousin, but he is hardly happy, even as he eats gourmet cupcakes and drinks good wine. At the start of the film, John has no camera, but he is followed by somebody with one. Once he steals the camera, he becomes a willing participant in the share-everything generation. However, as the camera settles in on the fractured girls, it is painfully obvious they don't share everything with the public. In fact, they barely share anything at all until they are high or drunk.

Director Mark Mann does a good job of capturing the alienation the girls feel through the lens of John's stolen camera. He frames all three of the main characters in a way that makes them look as if they are together yet still alone. The clever camerawork also gives a somewhat claustrophobic feeling to the movie, which adds more layers to the film. Mann must have sat down before filming and really studied what angles and shots would work to achieve these lonely, desperate camera effects, and they really do work brilliantly. By the end of the film, the audience will likely feel the pain and isolation of the young girls as they wander from here to there looking for a place to drink and do drugs.

In addition to serving as the film's director, Mann also wrote the screenplay before casting Reeves in the lead role. After watching the film, it really does feel like Mann may have written the script with Reeves in mind; the character of John seems to fit so well with how Reeves is publicly perceived. Some parts of the movie seem unscripted, as if Mann told his three featured artists to just go with it and see what happens. This is probably the core gem of the film-the fact that it seems so spontaneous yet it is very much a scripted film. It should be no surprise then that Mann had previously only directed one short film and a documentary, and "Generation Um..." has just that feeling of a documentary to it. It's almost like a hybrid docudrama that is immersive and interesting to watch.

Rating: 2 out of 5