Montreal Nouveau 2023 Review: THE FEELING THAT THE TIME FOR DOING SOMETHING HAS PASSED, Comedic Discomfort in Millenial Ennui

Editor, Canada; Montréal, Canada (@bonnequin)
Montreal Nouveau 2023 Review: THE FEELING THAT THE TIME FOR DOING SOMETHING HAS PASSED, Comedic Discomfort in Millenial Ennui

While ennui and angst are common to many generations, I can imagine it could be much more accute among millenials - anything that might have been considered a 'normal' life gave up the ghost before they came of age. They're wedged between the AIDS and #MeToo generations, so navigating relationships and sex is a minefield. More so for women, who are still stuck under certain expectations from both sides, and little skills with which to navigate. Or perhaps it's better to say, they have the skills, but society won't let them utilize those skills.

Joanna Arnow's feature debut is a darkly comedic, deeply uncomfortable, and original perspective of one woman's search for ... well, something? Even that is somewhat undefined, and part of what the film explores is why does it have to be defined. As director, writer, editor, and star, this is an insightful and cutting, for someone of any generation, who has understood what it's like to feel your like on a somewhat repetitive carousel without much incentive to push for something better, or at least different.

34-year-old Ann (Arnow) has had a 'friends with benefits' relationship with the much older Allen (Scott Cohen) for almost a decade; except they are more like acquaitances (he never rememnbers her age or where she went to college), and the benefits seem to be a dom/sub relationship that often leaves Joanna dissatisfied. Her own orgasms are not even discussed, and when Allen reveals he's something of a casual Zionist, that seems to be a turn-off.

This is while trying to find anything to get interested in her mid-level corporate job - something to do with music, maybe, but we never get the details, as it's one of those jobs that feels and looks pretty meaningless, except for giving Ann an income. But she has to sit with co-workers who are dull and have no idea what she does. She's also contending with her family, parents who are loving but seem to always have something to criticize, and a sister (Alysia Reiner, Orange is the New Black) who crashes at Ann's place and oblivious to her personal space.

Meanwhile, Ann decides to branch out a little in her 'dating' life. It still seems that she's interested i being a submissive - whether because she has little interest in any other kind of relationship, or she;s just gotten used to it, we don't know. But each chapter of the film introduces us to a few proverbial Toms, Dicks, and Harrys, each of whom either made big or small demands, are more forceful or gentle, but mostly end up being something to try on rather than take out of the store, as it were.

the feeling 2.jpgThe film unfolds as a series of vignettes - we're not quite aware of how much time is passing between each of Ann's experiences, and maybe it all blurs together for her. Even her workplace is unaware of the time passing, giving her an award for one year of employment when she's been at the company for over three years. It speaks to the feeling that the future is never going to arrive, that it's just endless circling in mild angst and growing boredom until death.

Ann's attraction to being a submissive in her relationships, then, is one way seems to be an extension of other aspects of her life - her only halfhearted action against her family's lowlevel berating, her exacerbation with her job, her seeming lack of hobbies or interests that could give her any satisfaction. Even in her submissive sexual encounters, there is a sense that she's doing more in an attempt to alleviate her ennui - but maybe this is the heart of it? Even when she meets someone (Babak Tafti) that gives her chance to explore what we call a 'normal' relationship, she seems at once coming out of her shelf and extra awkward, as if she can't understand the point.

Arnow is one of a new generation of American filmmakers (such as Kit Zauar) exploring the self-referential dramedy, giving voice to those whom society has left on the curb - there is a certain amount of privilege, and Arnow doesn't hide that. Indeed, there isn't much she hides; she is physically naked for much of the film (though none of the men get completely bare), and you can wonder if that extends to an emotional nakedness - she is of a generation far more used to using themselves in front of a camera, with social media makes the private much more public for the ordinary person. But with background in comics, with editing this film, she also gives it an atypical rhythm, one that is reminiscent of the punctuations of the memorable and the banal that often find only the barest separation.

The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed

  • Joanna Arnow
  • Joanna Arnow
  • Joanna Arnow
  • Scott Cohen
  • Babak Tafti
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Joanna ArnowScott CohenBabak TaftiComedy

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