Caitlin Plays Herself

Joe Swanberg’s films combine a Midwestern male’s fear of anything exceptional with pasty exhibitionism. They tend to feature explicit intimacy, but sex never comes off looking like something you’d care to try. Swanberg is now 30 years old, and has many movies under his belt since 2005’s Kissing on the Mouth. It is possible that one of Swanberg’s movies is not a complete waste of time, but Caitlin Plays Herself, written in collaboration with its starlet, Caitlin Stainkin, is not the one. One must conclude that Swanberg—on-hand to play quarterlife depressive playwright Caitlin’s absentee filmmaker lover, and giving another performance with the personality of moist bread—must be an obsessive of some sort to keep cranking along, film after film, in precisely the same willfully unengaged style, but rarely has a personal passion so lamely translated into work. Caitlin is a series of presumably improv-based scenes involving its subject’s rehearsals, her extracurricular dates when her steady is out-of-town—the sort of banal conversations that you try to block out at a restaurant—and the sexual jealousy and just-beneath-the-surface tension that prevails when he comes back. After the first 15 minutes, it could only be salvaged by a chunk of space station unexpectedly falling on both leads.

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