A good-looking but anecdotally slight dramedy about life and lifestyles in Los Angeles’s hip Silver Lake district, Nobody Walks is about the effect a sexy young New York filmmaker has on a liberal California couple, played by likeable Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married) and John Krasinsky (The Office). The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, has the fragranced whiff of a missed opportunity. There is undoubtedly a smart post-feminist story to be told about a contemporary young woman who uses her erotic capital as a survival strategy, but the script, by director Ry Russo-Young (Orphans) and Lena Dunham, the star creator of HBO’s Girls, avoids both gravity and overt comedy.
Twenty-three-year-old Martine (Olivia Thirlby), with her Justin Bieber bob and pouty smile, arrives at a California home to live in the pool house while working on her art installation film about ants, and promptly gives every man she encounters ants in his pants. Peter (Krasinsky), a sound engineer on a hiatus between Hollywood movies, agrees to be her mentor as a favour to a friend of his wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt). Julie, a one-time feminist activist, is now a psychotherapist and mother of a young boy and 16-year-old Kolt (India Ennenga), from a former marriage. All too soon, Peter’s dutiful assistance turns into an enthusiastic project, and the astute Julie knows where this is heading.
The trouble is, Martine appears to be essentially a cipher who responds to every man’s attention but shows little personal volition beyond wanting to get her film done. Other relationships in the film seem to be arranged as diagrammatically as a soap opera chart: Julie, for example, is struggling to deal with an attractive randy screenwriter patient (Justin Kirk) and holds a warm spot for her former husband, Leroy (Dylan McDermott), a self-involved former rock star.
Witnessing much of this, and ostensibly the moral centre of the piece, is Kolt, an aspiring poet who is just beginning to learn the ways of men. She has a crush on her father’s assistant (Rhys Wakefield), while resisting the crude come-ons of her older Italian tutor (Emanuele Secci) and the shy approaches of a kind, geeky schoolmate boy (Sam Lerner).
A wise word from her mother and a timely intervention by Martine suggest the solacing moments of women-bonding between the turmoil of contending with men, but this feels like an afterthought to an idea that wasn’t well thought out to begin with.