Ryan Lonergan, director of The Fall of 1980, is certainly ambitious. Indeed, he claims, in the press release for his feature film debut, that this opus is based on no fewer than five great novels: The Age of Innocence, The Custom of the Country, Sister Carrie, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, and The Wings of the Dove, each of which served as inspiration for a portion of 1980‘s crowded arrangement of stories — leaving no room, I suppose, for Swann’s Way, Dubliners, and This Side of Paradise.
Synthesizing a quintet of literary classics in a cool 87-minute running time is hardly a walk in the park for a first-time filmmaker, even one possessed of such intimidating precocity and erudition.
Much of the film is dedicated to introducing, arranging, and rearranging the film’s nine principal characters, each of whom must be whisked via narrative contrivance through a prepackaged emotional crisis.
It’s a catalog of millennial strife: an embittered affair here, a surprise pregnancy there, though be warned that it proves exhausting just to keep track of which generic middle-class white person is suffering which catastrophic dilemma at a given time.
Lonergan, to his credit, has furnished his miniature epic with considerable talent, and the production boasts muscular performances and accomplished cinematography and editing.
The problem is that he is outclassed by his own aspirations. Refusing to think small, Lonergan cannot help but fail big.