Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Tribeca 2011: Lotus Eaters

For the next month, Jeremiah and Jeff will be spending almost all of their free time watching and reviewing movies from this year's Tribeca Film Festival. It's about to get indie up in here!

At its best, Lotus Eaters is one big, long music video. That’s not a complaint. Watching a bunch of British hipsters live a mummy and daddy funded bohemian lifestyle, set to a soundtrack of bouncy Euro rock with intermittent scenes of gossip and dopey philosophizing about art is actually pretty entertaining. They’re pretty (as is the black and white cinematography). They’re self-destructive. Their parties are equal parts elegance and debauchery. Late in the game, first time director Alexandra McGuiness attempts to inject the proceedings with more gravity. It feels a little forced and arbitrary. I’m not sure if it’s the characters or McGuiness that are trying to form some narrative around their aimless existence, but either way it feels superfluous.

It’s not like the seemingly endless stream of party montages and vapid conversations aren’t capable of producing worthwhile drama. When the crew’s requisite junkie, Charlie (Johnny Flynn), stares at his on again off again girlfriend Alice (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), and in the midst of the drugs and drinks and love triangles, quietly strums his guitar and sings Papa Was a Rodeo by The Magnetic Fields, it’s beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a great moment that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. You don’t need to know the specifics of their relationship to appreciate it, but the otherwise chaotic atmosphere sets the stage perfectly for this tender, vulnerable moment.

Lotus Eaters gives the sensation of dropping into a group of friends and observing them for a while. The plot is soapy and hardly worth getting into. The characters are narcissistic and sometimes interchangeable. We don’t know their personalities or their histories and we don’t care. We’re just along for the 78-minute ride. It’s breezy and funny and sad. It’s always entertaining and ceaselessly moving forward at a cool, apathetic pace. Hardly enthralling, but never boring.

When Lotus Eaters tries to be meaningful, it’s pointless, but when it’s pointless and superficial, it’s a glamorous, tragic and viscerally exciting portrait of the 21st century’s wealthy, entitled and aimless youth.

VERDICT: See it.

Every frame looks like a fashion ad.

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