Apologies for whipping out the m-word, but mumblecore always seemed to me to be defined by its choreography of conflict avoidance. Its characters are so vague about they want and what they think because what they definitely don’t want is to lay those things out and risk disagreement, rejection or open hostility. They lack any obvious sharp edges, and so seem to be infected with terminal niceness, but to say that is to ignore all the passive aggression lurking underneath the surface of those meandering exchanges. A fine sign of how the mumble-crowd is coming of age is Dia Sokol’s directorial debut “Sorry, Thanks,” a film set in a familiar milieu of noncommittal 20-somethings with a fair amount of time on their hands, but one that also asks its characters to come to terms with the fact that not acknowledging what they’re doing doesn’t mean they can’t hurt anyone.
Kira (Kenya Miles) has just come out of a seven-year relationship and Max (“Dazed and Confused”‘s Wiley Wiggins) is still in a three-year one when they wake up together at the start of “Sorry, Thanks,” having met at a party the night before. They go their separate ways, but both live in San Francisco’s Mission district, and common friends mean they’re soon awkwardly running into each other at bars and parties and movies and starting up a flirtation. Kira’s trying to learn how to be single, going on a date that ends quietly but excruciatingly badly, fooling around with a friend while insisting it doesn’t mean anything, though that friend is clearly smitten, downgrading her job to one that gives her more control of her time. Max is just a mess, summoning his pal Mason (Andrew Bujalski) to drive him around while he’s (probably permanently) sans car, working as the jaded coordinator of chipper, ambitious interns at a local senator’s office, dating someone for years without moving in with her. He’s charming, though, sardonic and baby-faced and seemingly poised for the right gal to save him. You can see why his sweet-natured girlfriend Sarah (Ia Hernandez) has stuck around despite his taking nearly a week to notice her new haircut.
“Sorry, Thanks” is filled with the expected and somewhat tiresome semi-whimsical digressions, from a toothbrushing competition to the shadow-puppet seduction opening. And maybe they’re supposed to be tiresome — there’s an underlying sense of frustration throughout the film at the continuing bonelessness of its characters. Max can’t get it together, and he’s old enough that that’s become a choice, not a quirk. “Would you say I’m a generally good person?” he asks his friends, who tell him, in the least combative way possible, that he’s actually kind of an asshole. Sokol’s worked with Bujalski on his films, and she doesn’t have his extraordinary sense of warmth for characters nor sharp sense of timing — “Sorry, Thanks” most decidedly drifts. But she is in touch with another emotion that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s watched similar films: the desire to give everyone on screen a good shake and suggest that they are actually well into their adult lives.