Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Now and Then: In 'Chico & Rita' and 'Nobody Walks,' The Sound of Heartache

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! September 18, 2012 at 1:12PM

Early in "Chico & Rita," under the shimmer of the Tropicana's spotlight, Rita rummages through the lower octaves of attraction. Smitten, Chico gapes from the bar, dragging on a cigarette. Humid with sound, the scene has the texture of live action, its every wrinkle and wink. A movie song hasn't conveyed desire quite like this in nearly forty years.
Olivia Thirlby in "Nobody Walks"
Olivia Thirlby in "Nobody Walks"

"Nobody Walks" forsakes the far country of the past for an eminently recognizable present, a wealthy, dreamy, dusky Los Angeles of Italian instructors and hill houses and classic cars, of swimming pools and sweeping views of the pulsing alien communication that the city becomes at night. It, too, is immersed in sound, from the clatter of snapping fingers to a thirsty squeeze of lemon. The noise of human connection, and disconnection, too: the film's most audacious moment cuts between a full house and a soundproof room, as though silence were an indiscretion.

Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Peter (John Krasinski) are hosting Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a New York artist, as Peter, a Hollywood sound editor, helps her put together a video installation for an upcoming gallery opening. Directed by Ry Russo-Young, from a script he co-wrote with "Girls" polymath Lena Dunham, "Nobody Walks" is in some respects as slim as "Chico & Rita" — Thirlby remains a cipher, drifting in and our of lust, while appearances by Dylan McDermott and Justin Kirk never amount to much. Yet I was enamored of it, of the space it opens up between wanting to have sex and wanting to swear it off, of the way it hides the subtle slights and deprecations of relationships within its wall of sound.

Perhaps this feeling has something to do with DeWitt, an actress who evinces a preternatural ability to take the thankless role (Village radical, sober sister, stable wife) and find in it the core of the story. With Krasinski, she forms the nucleus of a family tossed about by its complications and loose ends, then arrives at her moment of suspicion head-on — "Just don't embarrass me," she says — lending it a refreshing frankness.

If things fall apart as expected, it may be that we imitate the natural world that Martine portrays in her art, running back the script and thinking each time that we'll get a different ending. "Nobody Walks" is such a lovely film because it admits that the noisy relationships we forge can only hint at the feelings we can't express aloud. "Heartache," Martine says. "What would that sound like?" It turns out we can only guess.

"Chico & Rita" is available today on Blu-ray and DVD. "Nobody Walks" is currently available on VOD, and arrives in theaters October 12.

This article is related to: Now and Then, DVD and VOD, Genres, Independents, Animation, Reviews

E-Mail Updates

Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.