Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Old Joy

Old Joy (2006) is an independent film by director Kelly Reichardt which tells the story of two old friends, Kurt (Will Oldham, a prolific independent musician in real life), an idealistic stoner who has yet to "grow up", and Mark (Daniel London) his boyhood buddy who's grown up and settled into the lifestyle of responsible adult. At the, Kurt phones Mark after an apparent lapse in their communication. Kurt is passing through Portland on a lark and hopes to reunite with Mark for a weekend camping trip in the Cascade mountain range and visit the fabled Bagby Hot Springs. For Mark, the weekend outing promises a respite from the pressure of his imminent fatherhood; for Kurt, it's just part of a long series of carefree adventures.

The film is a minimalist story of friendship, loss and alienation, with a subtle political message brewing beneath the surface about the lives of modest and idealistic leftists in the era of George W. Bush (punctuated at points with voice-over commentary from Mike Papantonio's Air America radio program). The film is considered part of the American mumblecore film movement, characterized by its ultra-low budget production, focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and use of non-professional actors. Indie rock supergroup Yo La Tengo provides a melancholy, ambient loop of electro-acoustic guitar music as the soundtrack.

3 out of 5 stars