Some Days Are Better Than Others: Mumblecore in Portland

Someone's been watching too many Miranda July movies. Made in Portland by Matt McCormick, this slow-moving tale of tangentially related slackers achieves a nice mood, but little drama. We meet glum Eli (singer James Mercer of the Shins) doing temp work and borrowing the car of his octogenarian grandfather-in-law, a likable codger who makes films about soap bubbles. Over there is Katrina (Carrie Brownstein of Sleater- Kinney), artsy and equally depressed, working at an animal shelter when she's not auditioning for MTV's The Real World. Then there's a thrift-store worker distressed to find the ashes of a dead child in a donated urn—but who cares about her, when the actress isn't in a band? McCormick frames their stories through "this depression" (as Eli calls it); no one has any money, and the camera tracks past boarded-up houses and empty parking lots. Some Days treats the hustlers of the new economy with contempt, preferring the soulful wallowing of its two protagonists. Art is a refuge for them, maybe, or is it a cop-out? (When motivated, Eli does a little karaoke.) McCormick and his cinematographer, Greg Schmitt, capture some suitably evocative images, like the lonely undersides of bridges along the Willamette. Pity nothing happens there.

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