Lonelyhearts going nowhere fill every corner of Matt McCormick's "Some Days Are Better Than Others," a film that verges on a parody of American indie cliches.

Lonelyhearts going nowhere fill every corner of Matt McCormick’s “Some Days Are Better Than Others,” a film that verges on a parody of American indie cliches. Pretentious in its poetic touches, yet hobbled by tin-eared dialogue, pic, like so many films of its type, has serious intentions yet proves incapable of achieving any kind of original expression. A SXSW preem hasn’t exactly positioned the film as a hot title, dimming already slight commercial hopes in theatrical and ancillary.

In short order, it’s evident that the film’s small universe, set in the greater metropolis of Portland, will be populated by a uniformly sad folks, only slightly distinguished by personal quirks. This tapestry of humanity betrays an odd lack of character depth and interest, and the actors are unable to dig deep into their roles.

These problems become apparent first with Eli (James Mercer), a would-be teacher who can’t bring himself to finish his degree and has instead settled for a series of temp jobs. His first one, involving counting types and brands of milk in a supermarket, is so ridiculous that it risks reducing Eli to a cartoon.

Katrina (Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney) tries to get over her disloyal ex-b.f. by meddling with his email, then explores her options getting cast on a reality show. Only later does it emerge that she works at an animal shelter, tending to some of the unit’s most forlorn dogs.

The rather obvious unifying theme of social outcasts of all shapes and sizes is compounded by Camille (Renee Roman Nose), who works as a clerk in a Goodwill-type facility. Coming across an urn that has been somehow included in a bag of giveaways, Camille obsesses over it to the point where she finally takes possession of the urn and scatters the ashes at a nearby beach.

The script indulges in the overdone device of linking these disparate people — either by sheer coincidence, or by deliberately delayed story revelations — but never achieves the intended poignante effect. When Katrina asks the most on-the-nose questions that could be posed here — “Have you ever had your heart broken? How long does it last?” — it’s a sure sign of the film’s lack of confidence in its ideas.

Strangely, the film’s richest character is the secondary character of Otis (played by David Wodehouse, in the film’s best performance), a retiree friend of Eli’s who makes a good-natured experimental film (credited as the work of filmmaker George Andrews) made of magnified images of soap bubbles. Otis’ monologue about his long life and loves pulsates with more tenderness, life and reality than anything else around it.

Vid cinematography by Greg Schmitt vividly captures Portland’s powerfully moody lights and darkness, while the editing tends to drag and the score slides into overbearing grimness.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

Production

A Rodeo Film Co. presentation. Produced by Neil Kopp, David Allen Cress. Executive producers, Peter Glavin, Molly Gochman, David Lugliani, Randy Printz, Ken Unkeles. Directed, written by Matt McCormick.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Greg Schmitt; editor, Chris Jones; music, Matthew Cooper, McCormick; production designer, Ryan Smith; costume designer, Amanda Needham; sound (stereo), Tyler Stephens; supervising sound editor, Eric Goldstein; casting, Simon Max Hill. Reviewed at AFI Film Festival (Young Americans), Nov. 9, 2010. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Carrie Brownstein, James Mercer, David Wodehouse, Renee Roman Nose, Erin McGarry, Andrew Dickson, Benjamin Farmer.

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