HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS has even less plot than Swanberg's LOL (2006), which focuses on the discontents of three young men insulated from real relationships by immersion in online technologies. And it's a less interesting, more grating film, because Hannah — played by Greta Gerwig, who has a small but significant role in LOL — is a self-involved, yammering cipher. A recent college graduate interning at a small Chicago production company, Hannah works with brainy overachiever Paul (Andrew Bujalski, writer-director of FUNNY HA HA and MUTUAL APPRECIATION) and office clown Matt (Kent Osborne); all three dread visits from their pretentious boss, Brian Duges (filmmaker Todd Rohal). Hannah's unemployed roommate, Rocco (Ry Russo-Young), is an aspiring musician and Hannah wants to write — she's working on a play that features Immanuel Kant and Isaac Newton as horny 13-year-olds. "The most massive tragedy," says Hannah in her efforts to articulate what's wrong with the world, "is that nobody, like, actually listens to each other." For reasons even she can't explain, Hannah dumps her newly unemployed musician boyfriend, Mike (THE PUFFY CHAIR writer Mark Duplass), and quickly hooks up with Paul, whom she then throws over for Matt, to whom she confesses that she suffers "chronic dissatisfaction" and wishes there were a pill she could take to banish it.
Swanberg's recurring subject is a generation of disconnected young people whose emotional development has been stunted by lack of real experience: They know how to hook up but have no idea how to negotiate the ups and downs of a relationship. Hannah is flabbergasted when "older man" Mike — he's 28 — tells her he dated his high-school girlfriend for two and a half years; she's never stuck with anyone or anything that long. The loose, rambling conversations that substitute for action might be more interesting if any of the characters were capable of real introspection. But they're so shallow and distracted they can't even manage sustained navel-gazing, which makes their so-called relationships profoundly uninteresting. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
The cast and credits of Joe Swanberg's third film are a who's who of the so-called "mumblecore" movement: low-tech, heavily collaborative films about the fleeting, fractured relationships of restless, childish men and women in their twenties who are clumsily negotiating the transition from attenuated adolescence to adulthood.