Twenty-something Hannah (Greta Gerwig) floats in and out of love with two men over a post-graduate summer. She has an illness, which results in chronic dissatisfaction with her relationships. In Hannah Takes The Stairs, the latest slab of low-fi ‘mumblecore’, we follow her ‘troubles’ as she aims to fall in love with the right one.
Shot without a script, this scenario allows the actors to flex their improv muscles to varying degrees, which adds greatly to the film’s sense of reality. Director Joe Swanberg strips his characters until they are both literally and emotionally naked. Constantly in extreme close ups, this is naturalistic cinema at its most exposing.
The film’s weakness, though, lies in the fact that the characters’ ‘problems’ simply don’t warrant much sympathy. Hannah, played with verve and enthusiasm by Gerwig, fluctuates between happiness and despair almost uncontrollably, forever unsure want she wants. Despite her breakthrough performance, however, the film fails to deliver what it says on the tin. It wants to be quirkily funny, but struggles to deliver much in the way of amusement.
Hannah Takes The Stairs has something of the vibe of Spike Lee’s She's Gotta Have It; a ‘feminist’ critique on the stupidity of men and the empowerment of women. At least, Swanberg’s film is reaching towards that, but you couldn’t honestly say it gets there.
Mumblecore is yesterday’s fad, isn’t it?
Clichéd but great improv skills from the entire cast.
Characters are charming, direction is honest.