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|Index||21 reviews in total|
Looking at the comments on this film on this and other websites it is
clear that this is a rather polarising affair it is difficult to find
a balanced review as people seem to love it or hate it. I'm not sure
why because for me it is an OK piece of cinema vérité that has some
strengths but ultimately doesn't work unless your requirements are for
it to be "natural". Some have said that the film is unrealistic but I
think this is unfair because to me Hannah does ring true and if you
doubt this then I would suggest you go onto Tumblr (the current
"trendy" blog platform) and subscribe to any one of the countless blogs
maintained by young professionals working their first jobs in the
creative sectors. This comes over like a criticism and perhaps it is
because for me the film is fairly bang on the money when it comes to
Hannah although I guess she is as representative of her generation as
much as any one person can represent a group of millions (ie they
The film follows her through a period of time and many conversations with her partners, colleagues and friends and nails her in how rather self-centred and selfish she is when it comes to her relationships. Some of this is clunkingly obvious to the point of being a bit irritating but mostly it feels natural. It seems this is mostly down to Gerwig, who is utterly convincing in who she is, a feat that is more impressive due to the lack of script (although I suppose she may be this person but I shall assume she is not). The problem is that, given how rather annoying Hannah is, the film seems happy to let the viewer wallow in her life without a lot of interest going on once her character has been established as much as it will be (which is early on). Without much happening we are left with only the characters to hold the viewer in the film in particular Hannah. The problem is that this is not something that appeals and, even if it does, the lack of any sort of destination (thematically, emotionally, narratively you name it) means that you get little back from the film.
Ultimately, for all its naturalism and the appeal this offers me, the film goes nowhere and just leaves me with people that I have no reason to have patience with and, although I gave the film the time it wanted, I find myself taking nothing away from it other than a sense of time wasted. As an experiment it is interesting and Gerwig is a big part of the film working at all but it amounts to very little and has the further downside of suggesting that this is somehow the standard for independent little dramas now. Ignore the hyped praise and ignore the scathing criticism the truth is somewhere in the middle albeit it more towards the critical end of the spectrum.
Hannah is so self-absorbed, she doesn't even realize she is. She laments that the world is full of self-absorbed people and that everyday gestures of friendliness are rooted in fear of the dark side of others. And yet she seems to give nothing worthwhile of herself and seems oblivious to the needs of others or the ramifications of her actions. She is drifting aimlessly, momentarily amused by the affections of men with whom she rapidly bores. Nonetheless, she is fascinating to watch. Excellent acting with brilliant unspoken subtext, which is critical, since Hannah is largely inarticulate. If you know any lost 20-somethings, you will recognize them in this. Many scenes go on too long, the dialog is bland and mundane. The men are cute and like to cuddle. The women confused and uninspiring.
Being obliged to keep company with a narcissistic airhead is just as
enervating in film as it is in real life. Ample proof of this can be
found in "Hannah Takes The Stairs", where the annoying affectations of
the film's main character and her threadbare story-line seem expressly
designed to test an audience's patience. We first meet our irritating
heroine picking towel fluff off her body after taking a shower with
slacker boyfriend Matt, before she heads off to work at an implausibly
laid-back TV production company. Hannah soon rejects Matt in favor of
nerdy office colleague Paul, and they embark on a desultory love affair
until she starts to fancy yet another charisma-free work-mate. This
latest prospect is a pal of Paul, so Hannah feels obliged to make an
unconvincing display of inner torment over her romantic dilemma - and
after she finally makes a decision, the narrative arc of Hannah's
'mumble-core' odyssey is pretty much concluded.
Hannah is so self-absorbed and inarticulate that she's unable to explain her capriciousness beyond a confession of "chronic dissatisfaction" embroidered with vacuous embellishments along the lines of "like, you know . . um . . whatever". Despite the repetitive drone of the film's banal improvised dialog, the actors always appear to be 'acting' and conscious of the camera's presence, which amplifies the cast's deficiencies with its own wobbly hand-held artifice. When the TV company's manager expresses exasperation about the folly of workplace romance in the penultimate scene, it seems like a rather shallow insight after suffering 83 minutes of excruciating tedium.
When the movie started, with the amateur filming and uninteresting boobies scene, I almost turned it off right away. I ended up watching more, and really got into it. Of course it's nothing special, it's filmed like a low-budget TV series, but what makes it interesting is that it feels real. The characters are real, the story is real, the problems are real. I felt like I was watching a reality show with people who have relationship issues that I could relate to. Obviously, if you don't like reality shows, chances are you probably won't like this. Hannah was fun to watch, although she's a bit annoying at times. Overall I really enjoyed this simplistic home movie, it was very pleasant and real. The only thing I disliked was how it ended so abruptly, I wanted more!
Dig through your closet, find old home movies, then splice them
together via some editing equipment and you are bound to find something
more entertaining than this film. The lead actress Greta Gerwig was
really good, and its impressive that someone could come off as good in
this mess, just imagine what she would be capable of given an actual
script. Yea thats right this film was shot without a script, I gotta
say I wasn't surprised to hear that. And if you are unlucky enough to
see this film you will understand what I mean by that.
This film has a rightful place alongside the other mumblecore works, its bad, poorly filmed, but does both start and END so there is that, it has that going for it. The basic plot is this, Hannah is confused, what to do? Thats it, I don't have to elaborate at all, thats the entirety of it.
If you come near this film, run in the opposite direction
What's the cheapest way to make a movie? Have two actors in a room talk
to each other. That seems to be the case with "Hannah Takes the
Stairs", an ultra-low budget film making the rounds in the art house
The film is rather claustrophobic since most of the action takes place in just a few rooms, with what appears to be the occasional "stolen shot" outside. I say stolen because filming permits in a big city are rather expensive and the outdoor set ups have a "quick, get the shot and get out before the cops see us" feel to them (these shots only run a few seconds, which is the main indication).
The characters talk about their lives and work, talk some more, have sex, talk some more, talk, talk, etc. The occasional nude scene keeps the audience awake, but with no real story to propel the film along I found it to be quite a snoozer.
Not too surprisingly, all dialog was improvised-and it shows. Scenes ramble on for quite some time and even though the film is less than an hour-and-a-half, it seems quite longer.
Filmmakers, please write a script and actually have a plot. Without it, the most attractive actors and locations in the world aren't worth much if you can't keep your audience interested.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is of the so-called "genre" of films referred to as
"mumblecore." Which are films made by twenty-somethings dealing with
relationships. Thankfully, this appears to have been a very short-lived
phenomena, not only because those filmmakers are now in their 30's but
perhaps also because those films are inferior.
There are so many problems with this movie, where to begin?
1) It's obvious that this film was entirely improvised, and that is confirmed by the director in interviews he did. The problem with improvising a movie, is that MOST of the time it simply doesn't work. Not as a movie. Mike Leigh is one notable director (from England) who has done this numerous times with his movies; however, most of the time he has, it's not worked well. It did one time (with "Secrets & Lies"), but from what I read, they worked from a storyline. The director and actors here with "Hannah" clearly didn't. Consequently, there's no story arc. There's no arc to the characters, emotionally or otherwise. Nobody is any different at the end than they were at the beginning. At least if you watch paint dry, it's wet at the beginning and dry at the end -- and that's at least something.
The coterie of talent assembled here, by and large, do not have the talent to pull this off successfully. That's not really a slam against them; most people in the world cannot pull this off successfully.
2) The next biggest problem? Actors must be truly talented AT IMPROVISATION, to be able to do this engagingly beyond a couple minutes. These actors aren't. I don't mean to be unkind here, but being able to improvise is a particular skill in the acting arena, and not everyone has it. At least at the point this film was made, these actors -- all of them -- didn't have it. Duplass is a step above all the others, but even he doesn't pull it off as it could/should have been.
How do you know when an actor isn't really good at improvisation? Their performance doesn't grab you or entertain you. It's dull or mediocre. Part of this (but not all) has to do with non-specificity by the actor. Meaning, they're acting "generally" and without drawing upon "real" experiences. Every single performance in "Hannah" is general -- and that's due to the story being improvised, the scenes being improvised, and the actors doing NO homework/study on who they were, their characters or their backgrounds. Maybe it's because they're lazy. Or maybe it's because they don't understand what makes any performance a good or powerful performance. Even Greta Gerwig's emotional breakdown at the end is SO drab & boring & one-note that it simply does not captivate the viewer. Plus, it goes on forever, which detracts even further from the scene. Less is more. (That the director clearly didn't get.)
There's a reason certain actors are vaunted in our culture (or the world), like say, Meryl Streep. When you view any role she's ever done, her work is specific. So specific, it's captivating. Same with De Niro. Two actors, incidentally, who are notorious for studying and working on their roles before filming starts.
The actors in "Hannah" are neither captivating, nor even interesting. Which is mostly their fault, but also that of the director. With all the films the director has now done since this movie, I would hope he's better. He's far from exhibiting the talent of a Scorsese, Tarantino, Nolan, Aronofsky, etc., but perhaps he will in the future (or perhaps has with his later projects).
Lastly, I probably shouldn't be surprised given the nature of this film, but I was at the absolute lack of any make-up being used at all. Not even the use of "erace" or something similar to cover up some of the actors' acne. Two of the actors had issues with this, and it was quite distracting to see Gerwig in close-ups with a full-on pimple on her nose in a couple scenes. This isn't nor should be some "badge of honor" in the no-budget filmmaking world. Frankly, it's stupid. And so easily & cheaply remedied.
I admit I am not a Woody Allen fan, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that feels that way. But his movies have been consistently made for decades. Obviously someone has a thing for him to continuously produce and distribute his versions of comedy and life. So be it. Unfortunately, it's happening again with this group of self-proclaimed, non-actor nobodies, Mark Duplass, Joe Swanberg, etc. How anyone continues to release their "thoughts, ideas and everyday life shots" is beyond me. But, I guess, to each his/her own. I've now seen three of them: 'Baghead' seems to be the best of the bunch. Then the soft-porn excuse: 'Kissing on the Mouth.' And now, 'Hannah Takes the Stairs,' the worst of the three. That's saying a lot, considering 'Kissing' wasn't any good either. But, here we have even less acting, less plot, more face-close ups and more unintentionally hilarious scenes (both appear in the closing, yet another break up where the actors themselves seem to have a hard time from cracking up, it was so unreal. And a naked bath/trumpet scene really?) Once again in these so-called "Mumblecore" films finds reasons to take women's clothes off for full-frontal nudity (along with the occasional full-frontal male shot, I guess for good measure/balance) and film EVERYTHING in sight. What makes me laugh in these movies is the extras where they actually have deleted scenes. Seriously? Something was left out? The basic, and I mean they (no joke) had no script, synopsis is a terrible person (Hannah) who "doesn't know" herself/path (you'll hear that a lot) so she uses men and crushes them to "find" herself. Unfortunately, the actors' desire to "not act" in these films pays off and you get no emotion or creditability when she consistently breaks up with men. Advice: Show/Don't Tell.
Joe Swanberg's "Hannah Takes the Stairs" is a low-budget art-film done
in a quasi-improvisational style. It centers around a group of
self-absorbed twenty-somethings who spend most of their time sitting
around discussing life and relationships as if such subjects had never
been talked about before. The result is a sometimes insightful but more
often tedious look into the mindset of today's younger generation.
Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is a neo-Bohemian playwright with poor instincts when it comes to men, who, upon dumping her ne'er-do-well musician boyfriend, immediately strikes up romances with two fellows at the obviously loosey-goosey TV production company where she works. The movie strives hard to be as extemporaneous as possible both in its performances and its direction, and while that does yield a few moments of truth and honesty along the way (the break-up scene is almost painfully convincing), too much of the movie is simply vapid and self-indulgent, with a trio of perfectly able-bodied young folk puling and mewling and whining about life to the point where we just don't care to listen to them anymore.
With no real plot or storyline to speak of, watching "Hannah Takes the Stairs" is a bit like staring at someone else's random doodlings for an hour-and-a-half and finding no real reason why we should care about them. And, oh yes, unless I missed it, no actual staircase appears in the movie, with or without Hannah going up or down it. I guess it must be metaphorical.
"Hannah Takes the Stairs" is a really low-budget, independent film.
Congrats to the filmmakers for getting it made and out there for anyone
They started out with a great simple boy and girl storyline which fit their means perfectly. They respected the audience by making all of the plot points quickly, and effectively moving through all the scenes. However, they did not seem to show this same respect for the main character Hannah. She was self-absorbed, irritating and completely unrelatable. By the end of the movie (if you make it that far) you just don't care if Hannah finds what she's looking for or not.
Should you see this movie? Probably not. But I do believe that all independent films deserve our support. Here's hoping their next effort is better.
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