The flags of Gen-X aimlessness and whining ripple briskly in “Without a Map,” a competently made but weightless relationships drama. A strong sense of ironic humor would have helped put the neurotic flailings of the film’s L.A. scenesters into some perspective, but tyro writer-director Peter Turman is clearly too close to the characters’ emotional gropings to have any sense of artistic distance. Commercial chances are as limited as the picture’s dramatic range.
Ensemble piece is centered on Martin (Philip Tanzini), a reasonably bright young man who hates his publishing-house editing job but is stymied in his efforts to write a novel. His sullenly sexy girlfriend, Anna (Lola Glaudini), seems too diffident to be an ideal match, and it isn’t long before she takes up with dim coffeehouse musician Todd (Miles O’Connor).
Without missing a beat, Martin starts a romance with cheery blonde Jamie (Robin McKee, seemingly auditioning to be the new Diane Keaton), which goes well until a tearful Anna turns up asking to be taken back. Thinking with the wrong part of his body, Martin relents and lowers the boom on the unsuspecting Jamie, setting the stage for bittersweet realizations all around.
On the sidelines are party scenes populated with young characters whose interests and phraseologies are interchangeable, well-educated types with ambitions that are alternately frustrated or nonexistent, and a worldview that doesn’t extend beyond the contents of their datebooks. No wonder Martin can’t find anything to write about.
Turman hints at the kind of cinema he admires in a scene in which a dimwitted young lady pointedly refuses to watch anything by Resnais, Rohmer or Truffaut. Better those models than most, but Turman is going to have to develop his own p.o.v. on matters of the heart and seriously expand his range to bring any substance to his work in intimate drama.
Thesping by a host of new names is OK but no more, and pic does sport a solid professional sheen, with the director’s brother Andrew Turman doing a solid job behind the camera. Device of having some of the central characters speak confessionally to an off-camera interlocutor becomes annoying.