There are people out there who leap on any chance to fling the epithet “hipster” as the ultimate insult. As a wise editor of mine once pointed out, all the adjective really means is “people in my scene who I don’t like and don’t want to identify with.” But when a movie pops up with its title in all lower case, its lead roles cast from indie rock institutions, and its trailer kicking off with the line “Did you ever get your heart broken?” against some kind of warm ambient backdrop, it’s kind of begging to have that finger pointed its way.
I don’t doubt that “some days are better than others,” the first feature from Matt McCormick, starring Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and The Shins’ James Mercer, comes from a sincere place. But that somehow makes it worse: the acting in the trailer is wooden and confuses stuttering for realism and bathos for emotion. If using music as an emotional soundtrack crutch is bad, using the actual musicians that way seems worse.
It’s not that I disapprove of casting musicians across the board: Will Oldham is better known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, but he trained as an actor first, starring in John Sayles’ “Matewan” as a teen and later helping rocket “Old Joy” to critical acclaim. And this isn’t the first time Brownstein has acted — she had a role in 2002’s little-seen “Group.” Really, casting amateurs, musicians or otherwise, should just be about a director’s choice to put non-professionals in front of the camera for a particular effect.
Here, though, the effect seems to beg indie rock kids to love/view the film based on cast list alone, like a concert movie that accidentally turned into a drama. The synopsis notes that it’s about Brownstein’s “twenty-something reality TV enthusiast, video diarist and animal shelter worker” vs. Mercer’s “mid-30s slacker who could offer a thoroughly researched social critique explaining all the reasons why he shouldn’t get a job,” which almost seems designed to mock its stereotypical target audience: slackers with quirk, ahoy! Trailer’s here:
[Photo: “some days are better than others,” Matt McCormick , 2009]