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Movie Review

‘Nesting’ offers banal comic take on Gen X early midlife crisis

From left: Todd Grinnell, Wes Armstrong, and Ali Hillis in “Nesting.’’

Todd Grinnell looks and sounds like a junior Paul Rudd. In a banal comedy, that only makes the comparison paler. “Nesting’’ falls somewhere between the Rudd movie “Wanderlust’’ and mumblecore, a no man’s land where the only bright spot is the potential it shows for debut writer/director John Chuldenko and the mildly entertaining cast.

The comic premise is an early midlife crisis: Thirty-something slacker Neil (Grinnell) wants to recapture the adventurous ways of his 20s, when he was in a rock ’n’ roll band and wife Sarah (Ali Hillis) was a clubgoer and photographer. Now she’s a shrew obsessed with decorating their Glendale house and he manages an upscale shopping mall. Neil wants to get back to his youth, when he drove a beat-up Volvo and he and Sarah shared an apartment in Silver Lake.

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It takes a while for the film to get the pair back to their glory days - a Volvo magically turns up for sale and said apartment just happens to be vacant - but when it does, there are some welcome glimpses into what Neil misses so much. But “Nesting’’ seems to think longing for youth is something unique to Generation X. The baby boom generation 30 years ago gave us “The Big Chill.’’ Except for a pretty good rock soundtrack, “Nesting’’ doesn’t seem to recall this or any other film that’s already covered this territory with more style.

Neil and Sarah come off like entitled brats. The apartment in trendy Silver Lake is supposed to be a dump where two struggling artists were happiest. Except for a broken light switch, it looks, with its hardwoods and airy views, like a yuppie’s dream. Grinnell and Hillis try gamely, but they’re burdened by a script with conventional plotting, too much exposition, and too few genuine laughs. It’s Neil’s story, and Sarah - despite a scene in which she consumes pot brownies and invites a rock club audience to the apartment - is the nagging woman who’s squashed his inner child.

Sure, the theme of “lost hope,’’ as “The Big Chill’’ put it, is worth revisiting. But in “Nesting,’’ the yearning for youth is more about the self-centered freedoms of being able to close a bar or eat in a funky cafe than, say, believing you could change the world. The big chill here isn’t lost hope; it’s the fear that one is no longer hip.

Loren King can be reached at
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