The product of intense collaboration, intuitive improvisation, and evident commitment from all of its featured players, Gabi on the Roof in July has more process than produce to yield. Organically grown the hard way, in the extensive rehearsal tradition of Mike Leigh and John Cassavetes, the film follows a group of listless boho layabouts over the course of a blithely hedonistic summer. Rent is referenced but labor easily avoided as struggling artists fail to either struggle or make much art. Oberlin undergrad Gabi (Sophia Takal) shows up at her brother, Sams (writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine) Brooklyn apartment carrying a pet hamster and wearing a Go-Gos tee, which she quickly sheds for a ubiquitous crowd of blunt-toking boys. Sam is the closest thing to a self-propelled adult, but his attempts at helping his sister grow up only bring him back down. Doubtless these are portraits rendered from close observation and experience, and within the momentum of carefully built scenes, characters act plausiblyeven understandably. But here, behavior exists outside of a guiding narrative forcewhich is not asking for more to happen: Its asking for whatever happens to lead somewhere, to build drama, to convey life beyond lived-in scenes. I know that people like this exist, but, in terms of characters on the screen, Im never shown why they need to.
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