You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Caitlin Plays Herself

The latest in Joe Swanberg's self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after "Art History," "Silver Bullets" and "The Zone") focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself.

Cast:
With: Caitlin Stainken, Joe Swanberg, Frank V. Ross, Spencer Parsons, Megan Mercier, Kurt Chiang, Tim Reid, Adam Wingard.

The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is chopped up into discrete, self-enclosed tableaux, kind of like an American “Vivre sa vie” without the passion, drama or gorgeous imagery. Decidedly understated pic, which bows Dec. 2 in Gotham, is unlikely to change auds’ pre-existing opinions of the prolific mumblecore maven.

The film opens on a naked Caitlin (Stainken) screaming soundlessly under a deluge of black oil in what turns out to be a performance/theater piece protesting the BP oil spill. Cut to a naked Caitlin in a bathtub, engaged in an argument with Swanberg about nudity and bad playwriting (though for a film that starts with a defense of nudity, Swanberg’s film is uncharacteristically genital-free). Their heated discussion opposes the performance artist’s work-in-progress aesthetic with the filmmaker’s desire for a finished product.

Yet Caitlin’s urge toward experimentation appears to hold sway, mirrored by the film’s lack of segues or continuity between scenes, which feel arbitrarily sectioned off as self-contained setpieces; it’s impossible to know from the desultory dialogue how much time elapses between segments. In her on-again, off-again relationship with Swanberg, Caitlin manages to intensify mumblecore’s patented social awkwardness into something resembling open-ended theater.

Aside from a couple of casual (if awkward) sexual encounters involving guys portrayed by mumblecore helmers Frank V. Ross and Spencer Parsons, the pic features few members of Swanberg’s usual eccentric troupe. This leaves the thesping chores to Swanberg, never the most charismatic screen personality, and Stainken, whose very self-possession, even when mired in doubt, offers few points of entry; the lack of assertive personalities further divorces the scenes from any sense of linear narrative.

Swanberg’s newfound interest in aesthetic formalism forces the humans in his compositions to vie for dominance against, say, an enormous wind-tossed willow tree or an abstract painting in the dead center of the frame; overall effect is to isolate the human figures in limbos of their own making.

“Caitlin” marks Swanberg’s sixth feature this year (with “Uncle Kent” and “Autoerotic” joining the aforementioned three). Apparently the filmmaker’s answer to creative doldrums is increased productivity.

Caitlin Plays Herself

Production: A Swanberry production. Produced by Joe Swanberg. Directed, edited by Joe Swanberg. Screenplay, Caitlin Stainken, Swanberg.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Adam Wingard, Swanberg; music, Keith Ruggiero; sound, John Bosch. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Nov. 27, 2011. Running time: 69 MIN.

With: With: Caitlin Stainken, Joe Swanberg, Frank V. Ross, Spencer Parsons, Megan Mercier, Kurt Chiang, Tim Reid, Adam Wingard.

More Film

  • Al Gore

    Al Gore Addresses Trump's Climate Stance at Morelia: 'I Thought There Was a Chance He Would Come to His Senses'

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

  • steve dayan Teamsters Local 399

    Hollywood Teamsters, IATSE Condemn Sexual Harassment in Entertainment Industry

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Directors Guild Begins Expulsion Process Against Harvey Weinstein

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

  • Josh Brolin'Only the Brave' film screening,

    Josh Brolin Mourns 'Deadpool 2' Stuntwoman's Death: It Was an 'Absolute Freak Accident'

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

  • 'Surviving Peace' Review: Does Israel Truly

    Film Review: 'Surviving Peace'

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

  • Boo 2! A Madea Halloween

    Box Office: Tyler Perry's 'Boo 2!' Set to Top Sluggish Weekend Ahead of 'Geostorm'

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

  • Tony Zierra to Follow up ‘Filmworker’

    Tony Zierra to Follow up ‘Filmworker’ with New Stanley Kubrick Doc about ‘Eyes Wide Shut’

    The latest in Joe Swanberg’s self-reflective series about artistic indecision (after “Art History,” “Silver Bullets” and “The Zone”) focuses on real-life performance artist Caitlin Stainken (who also co-wrote) and her intermittent relationship with an indie filmmaker played, unsurprisingly, by Swanberg himself. Composed largely of fixed, lengthy medium shots and long shots, “Caitlin Plays Herself” is […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content