You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Silver Bullets

The sad aimlessness of Joe Swanberg's second feature of 2011 elicits only a begrudging pity.

With: Kate Lyn Sheil, Ti West, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, Jane Adams, Larry Fessenden.

After watching “Silver Bullets,” the question arises: Will Joe Swanberg tire of the mumblecore moniker as much as auds are tired of the whole genre? Either way, his second feature of 2011 (and it’s only February) brings together his usual self-referential obsessions, this time with a Michael Nyman-inspired score working overtime to find some emotion to drive forward. Pic probably contains Swanberg’s clearest exposition of his philosophy, yet its sad aimlessness, from the mouth of an unhappy director (played by the helmer), elicits only a begrudging pity. The Berlinale launch will increase his international exposure but won’t expand the fanbase.

Fresh off his Sundance-preemed “Uncle Kent,” Swanberg states this new pic is indebted to the disparate influences of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and David Foster Wallace. Apart from a quickly dropped subplot involving Jane Adams as an actress made too aware of her age, and the epilogue’s vague suggestion of suicide, it’s difficult to see exactly how these influences came to settle on this particular film, though one wonders what Chekhov might have done with lycanthropes.

Struggling actress Claire (Kate Lyn Sheil) bags the role of a young werewolf in a new film directed by Ben (Ti West, helmer of “The House of the Devil”). Meanwhile, her b.f., Ethan (Swanberg), casts Claire’s best friend, Charlie (Amy Seimetz, also producing), as his romantic partner in the arthouse pic he’s helming. Adding to the tension between Ethan’s arty aspirations and Ben’s schlocky commercialism are Ethan’s jealousy and Ben’s attraction to Claire.

As Ethan stares at footage he shot of Claire for an earlier project and spirals into depression, he confesses to Charlie that the only reason he makes movies is because he doesn’t know what else to do. “There’s nothing that movies can get me,” he tells her, apart from allowing him to get close to people he finds interesting. Unfortunately, as with so many of Swanberg’s films, the people he finds intriguing rarely cast the same spell onscreen.

Doubtless he’s sticking to the maxim, “Write what you know,” but as in recent Hong Sang-soo pics, the endlessly recycled themes become less and less interesting, especially when tied to Swanberg’s particularly anemic mode of lensing. Even when there’s finally a sense that the characters are feeling something, it’s transmitted with an airlessness that consistently hampers involvement, notwithstanding the feeling that the helmer might be using the pic to work through some of his own depression.

Clearly a great deal of time was spent in the editing room, and it’s here that Swanberg deploys a more sophisticated technique — vital, considering the pic was shot in piecemeal fashion over the course of two years. A near-constant score by the Orange Mighty Trio, with deeply bowed bass lines and rushing piano notes, runs far ahead of the emotional level onscreen, which never manages to catch up. Berlin screened “Silver Bullets” with Swanberg’s third film of the year, “Art History,” though the two are neither narratively nor formally linked.

Popular on Variety

Silver Bullets

Production: A Swanberry Prods. production. Produced by Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz. Directed, written, edited by Joe Swanberg.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Swanberg; music, Orange Mighty Trio; sound, Graham Reznick. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 12, 2011. Running time: 69 MIN.

Cast: With: Kate Lyn Sheil, Ti West, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, Jane Adams, Larry Fessenden.

More Scene

  • Laverne Cox Charlie's Angels

    How Laverne Cox Landed a Cameo in Elizabeth Banks' 'Charlie’s Angels'

    Laverne Cox officially earned her wings, scoring a role in Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels.” But she revealed her cameo almost didn’t happen. When the Emmy-nominee heard that Elizabeth Banks was directing the film, the longtime fan of the franchise (and of Banks herself) reached out about being part of the project. Cox had previously worked with [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Cybill ShepherdTrevorLIVE, Show, The Beverly Hilton,

    'The L Word' Co-Stars Cybill Shepherd and Jane Lynch Reunite at TrevorLive

    Fans of Showtime’s “The L Word” will be happy to hear that Cybill Shepherd eagerly reprised her on-screen romance with former co-star Jane Lynch on Sunday night at the TrevorLive Gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. While accepting the champion Award, Shepherd kissed Lynch not one, but twice. The “Moonlighting” star was recognized [...]

  • Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson and John

    Robert Pattinson Praises Fans for Raising Funds for Go Campaign: ‘It’s So Sweet’

    Robert Pattinson is giving back, but he’s even more impressed that his friends and fans are joining him in the fight. “It’s amazing,” Pattinson told Variety on the black carpet outside Neuehouse in Hollywood at the Go Campaign’s annual gala. “And they’ve done it every year. It’s kind of — it’s so sweet and I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content