“I’m 34 years old. I have nothing. I can’t start from scratch, don’t you understand?” – Anders, Oslo, August 31st. 

Oslo, August 31st; Jeff, Who Lives at Home; The Comedy; Dark Horse; The Silver Linings Playbook

Cinema from a few different corners seems to be riding a wave of aging ennui. A couple of the year’s most extreme protagonists have trouble growing up.

Oslo follows a 34 year-old recovering drug addict who feels like he’s already missed his shot at normalcy, or better, or worse, or something.

Dark Horse follows a moronic, lazy man-child as he grapples with first love. (Sorry, that’s the best I can do.)

The Comedy follows Tim Heidecker’s pathologically insincere uber-hipster as he… lives, barely.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a fantasy revolving around a pothead who lives with his mom.

The Silver Linings Playbook follows a mentally ill man’s struggle to save his marriage after serving time at an institution. He could also be 34.

All these characters are male protagonists, at least two are mentally ill, three live with their parents, all five have unstable housing situations, all are tasked– to some degree, and perhaps least of all in The Comedy– with growing-up.

The trend is also notable then for its considerable genre straddling. We’ve got a kinda austere, philosophical meditation, two hardcore cringe comedies, a fantasy/rom-com, and a plain rom-com. I don’t know what this means, or what it’s about, but keep your eyes peeled. Also leave your thoughts for explanations, theories, or further candidates in the comments.

-Max Berwald



Filed under Notes, Thoughts

8 responses to “MAN-CHILDREN 2012

  1. Not dismiss any movie based solely on it’s plot, but I think Felinni pretty much said everything these movies have to say with I Vitolleni. And that was 59 goddamn years ago. It helps that his movie’s characters, while pathetic, are also basically well meaning and that its, well, a Felinni movie.

    • Max Berwald

      I agree Fellini has a special (religious?) affinity for hedonism… and yeah he just don’t have any contempt for those (his) characters. (At least not compared to a movie like ‘Dark Horse.’ ) Even Guido in 8 1/2 is way emotionally stunted, but we love him.

      And Solondz might say he has nothing but compassion for his Dark Horse but I don’t believe him.

  2. Dolan Chorng

    That’s a lot of man-child for one year… Interesting that both Dark Horse and Jeff feature both post-Hangover success actors playing essentially the same role as the more successful, “responsible” sibling.

    It seems to be a growing trend really that started back from Adam Sandler films e.g., Billy Madison. Then it progressed into Apatow’s version of a man-child via Seth Rogen/Paul Rudd in Knocked Up/My Idiot Brother etc. And then lately, it seems to have evolved into the indie man-child half drama/comedy like Azazel Jacob’s Mama’s Man in 2008, Duplass Bros.’ Cyrus in 2010.

  3. Dolan Chorng

    Theory – Maybe it’s just the result of the perception of our generation (Generation Y I guess?) where post-grad ennui and parental support are normal and the idea of getting a job/ wife/ house/ kid are just being replaced with video games/ pot/ and internet porn.

  4. Max Berwald

    Pot-haze, masturbation and video game addiction aside, my problem with articles like the WSJ one is that they have an implicit problem with what I tend to consider sociological progress: more free time.

    Dolan, you mention living off mom and dad, which really is the crux. As far as I’m concerned, if 20-something men find a way to be financially “stable” and want to play video games, do drugs and generally hang, their girlfriend’s shouldn’t be complaining, they should be playing catch-up. (Words I may be forced to swallow.)

    But you’re right Laura- they ARE related.

  5. mmahrer

    Lately, guys seem to be taking longer and longer to figure out what they’re doing after school. I’m not saying all, I’m saying more. Men for a long time have had more privilege than women. If they had the means to go to school: they went. If they had the means to get a job: they got it. It’s been that way for some time. As for women, we all know that it’s been a bit trickier. It’s more of a new thing for a woman to go to university and to have a strong career. Even now there are still jobs women haven’t been able to attain (i.e. president of the United States) so there are goals women are still trying to reach. Perhaps the ennui is based on history. ‘My forefathers have already done that’ sort of thing. ‘What could I ever do to top that?’ If they think the answer is nothing, chances are they will do nothing. I think history can be very motivational. Perhaps that’s what’s lacking. Again, I’m not saying no young men have any motivation, I’ve just noticed a change. Also, there more ladies enrolled in college these days than there are gentleman. Just sayin’.

  6. Zac

    I’d add that I don’t think this is a new trend in movies. Although there are, perhaps, an increasing number of movie heroes who live with their parents the lovable slacker character has been around for a while
    (Clerks, Harold and Kumar, Every Judd Apatow Movie ever).

    I’m also annoyed by the wsj article but that’s an entirely different conversation. For those of you interested in that conversation, though, I’d check this article out:

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