4.0, United States/Canada

Hannah Takes the Stairs

2007 / Joe Swanberg > The backlash against “mumblecore” generally tends to be driven by the fact that these films always focus on middle-class, post-graduate white kids who do nothing but complain about their lives. But this is arguably the best social class through which to canvass this topic. If Whit Stilmann’s Metropolitan was a satirical look at the upper-class who excel at discussion and inaction, and the Hughes Brothers’ Menace II Society commands attention because it tries to portray the lack of options in the urban ghetto, films like Hannah Takes the Stairs competently approach the social classes in between who have myriad possibilities of both success and failure. And whether this optionality is displayed through lack of interest in one’s occupation or discontent in relationships is often the deciding factor between the film, the viewer and whether the experience will be enjoyable.

Having miserably failed at watching Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha, I stayed away from most films in the sub-genre until this Swanberg vehicle. Co-writer and star Greta Gerwig’s endearing yet infuriating title character is composed of some of the best and worst bits of ourselves and our loved ones—past and present. By the time the final two scenes come around, everything kind of, sort of, actually makes sense. The cerebral aspect of the film suddenly subsides to let the emotive aspect sneak through and, in the process, lets the viewer do the same. If mood was ever a critical ingredient of a film’s success, this may just be it.