Review: Generation Um...
PLOT: Three people talk to each other, wander around New York City and attempt to understand something about themselves during the course of a couple of days.
REVIEW: This is less a review than a warning. GENERATION UM..., is an intolerable, droning, shapeless mess of a movie. In fact, it’s so poorly conceived that calling it a movie is almost inaccurate. It’s like a documentary about people you’d never in a million years care to learn about, edited with zero sense of how drama is achieved.
GENERATION UM... tells the story (at least for the first hour) of three sullen, bored, boring people wallowing away in NY. We begin as a man named John (Keanu Reeves), who apparently works as a driver for an escort service, brings two drunken floozies to their home. The girls, Violet (Bojana Novakovic) and Mia (Adelaide Clemens), are obnoxious and clearly unpalatable to John, who leaves them to pass out in their apartment so he can go eat a cupcake by himself, wander the streets, and return home to interact with his equally obnoxious roommate. This is when my head began to hurt.
We cut between John’s unexceptional activities to those of the two girls, who do almost nothing other than sit around, drink, look at themselves in the mirror and talk - in the case of the loud-mouthed Violet, the talk is of such little value that if a mute button were available, you’d push it quite early on. Spending a brief amount of time with these two would be torturous enough, but director Mark Mann allows his camera to capture seemingly every inert, slurred conversation in an apparent effort to squeeze every last ounce of contempt from the audience.
Eventually, John - during one of his meanders through the streets of NY - steals a digital camera someone has left on the ground. With this, he begins recording everything, from squirrels in the park to the late-night chatter of the two girls who begin spilling their most intimate stories for the dull voyeur. In case that perked you up, these tales, which run the gamut from salacious to “sincere”, are as unbearably trite as everything else.
Once we got to the two-minute scene where Keanu pours coffee in a convenience store, pays for it, steals a pack of gum and leaves, it was finally time to admit that GENERATION UM... was never going to go anywhere. The time-wasting of this picture reaches laughable levels. Well, not exactly - I was most certainly not laughing, not ever, but I did eventually begin to experience a soul-smashing anguish so deeply that it could only be considered funny. I had seen this type of movie hundreds of times in film school back when I was a young fellow, where so many students thought documenting a person’s mundane chores and petty issues amounted to telling an “authentic” drama of an everyday life. But that does not cut it, folks. You can be “real” and tell me a compelling story at the same time. I refuse to watch coffee percolate just for the sake of it. I refuse.
It’s hard to tell if Reeves is fully committing to his role or is sleepwalking through it; either way, I must assume he’s giving Mann the exact performance he desires. That said, this is probably as "natural" as it gets for Reeves on screen. Clemens and Novakovic aren’t dreadful by any means, but the material does them no favors, and their performances are as redundant as the script.
Perhaps this review seems insensitive. Believe me, I’m not heartless, especially not when it comes to the art of making cinema. I always try to give a film at least a modicum of credit, because creating one is not easy. (I even paid the abominable A HAUNTED HOUSE a backhanded compliment to that effect in my review.) But there’s only so much one man can take - GENERATION UM... sunk me to levels of bored hopelessness that I’ve honestly never encountered inside of a theater before. You’ve been warned.