Starring Olivia Thirlby, John Krasinski. Written by Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young. Directed by Ry Russo-Young. 14A. 83 min. Opens Oct. 12 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
In case it isn’t clear enough that Martine (Olivia Thirlby) is meant to be a fly in the proverbial ointment in Nobody Walks, her character is an artist working on a gallery installation about the secret lives of insects. Slim-hipped and raccoon-eyed beneath a Nouvelle Vague bob, Martine is almost comically sexy, and just pretentious enough to convince sound designer Peter (John Krasinski) that she might be worth the endangerment of his marriage to Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt). Hunkered down in the poolhouse at Peter’s Silver Lake spread, she threatens to tear his family apart at the seams: She’s a lithe, blithe home-wrecker.
The most interesting thing about Nobody Walks is how ambivalent co-writer/director Ry Russo-Young seems to be about her protagonist’s artistic abilities: It’s hard to tell if Martine is a dim dilettante or a genuine talent momentarily undone by the desires and resentments of others. This note of uncertainty is welcome, because everything else in Nobody Walks is totally predictable, from the deceptively roundabout plotting to the casual acknowledgement of the characters’ well-monied status (note here that Girls creator Lena Dunham worked on the screenplay).
It also doesn’t help that the casting is particularly uneven. Watching DeWitt act circles around the hapless Krasinski, who isn’t even that far out of his sitcom depth, is startling. As for Thirlby, she’s in the unusual position of being the main character yet having her role be defined in relation to what everyone else onscreen thinks of her—as a result, her performance is a little bit blank. And as such, it’s the perfect emblem for a film that has credibly glossy surfaces but not much going on underneath.