The woes of struggling actors have been explored on screen countless times already (typically by those struggling actors themselves), and Loitering With Intent is just another film in a long line of passion projects exploring the challenges and pitfalls of seeking spotlight attention. It’s a tired story about two best friends who subject themselves to casting auditions and nightly bartender gigs just to barely squeak by, much like any other “wannabe actor” sob story might play out, except this one has Sam Rockwell and Marisa Tomei as supporting characters! Apologies, please don’t misinterpret my snarkiness, because there are much worse films than Adam Rapp’s countryside calamity – but there are also much better.
Friends Dominic (Michael Godere) and Raphael (Ivan Martin) are your typical actor hopefuls, drawn in by New York City’s promise then thrown to the wayside like so many before. Desperate for their big break, an acquaintance informs them that her employer has about $300,00 laying around ready to be invested in a low-budget indie project, so Dominic fabricates a fake script that he promises will blow everyone away. With ten days to present a script, Dominic and Raphael flee to a country house owned by Dominic’s sister to channel nature’s serenity while powering through the promised screenplay. Unfortunately for them, a whole cast of characters end up unexpectedly crashing the writing pow-wow, from Dominic’s sister Gigi (Tomei) to her angry ex-militant boyfriend Wayne (Sam Rockwell).
Loitering With Intent presents its charm with dashes of crushing realism, playing along with our character’s failed attempts at success, yet their banter is often cartoonish and far too witty for the conflicting “mumblecore” atmosphere. Michael Godere and Ivan Martin are funny together at times, striking a passionate friendship driven by chats about Ingmar Bergman, but interactions with other characters leave MUCH to be desired. Brian Geraghty’s character Devon – an empty-minded surfer bro – is an insufferable stereotype who can’t make it two words before injecting the word “bro” into conversation, creating some cringe-worthy exchanges with Raphael specifically. Godere and Martin are at their best together, but the supporting characters are zany eccentrics who have trouble fitting in (the dippy Tomei and PTSD-fighting Rockwell included).
Actually, let me rephrase that – MOST of the characters have trouble fitting in. Isabelle McNally plays Gigi’s attractive housekeeper of sorts, providing a lusty distraction for both Dominic and Devon, but her character is far more interesting as a muse for the screenplay Dominic ends up writing mainly by himself. While some of the other characters seem to be trying a bit too hard to build there distinctly different characteristics, McNally’s performance is sweet, succinct, and rather seamless in comparison – a nice relief from the rigid tones hindering dramatic establishments. Loitering With Intent can’t decide between being an off-beat comedy darling or a punchy story of ambitious dreams turning into famed realities.
Running at a brisk 80 minutes, the benefit here is a rather painless existence that almost feels like a short story – which also results in a rushed, jumpy story with an awkwardly abrupt ending that stinks of inconsequential storytelling. Loitering With Intent moves far too quickly to really delve into the plethora of emotions swirling about each character, from Wayne’s aggression to Dominic’s obsession with self-validation, squelching conflicts almost immediately after being brought up. There’s a grittiness that Rapp’s screenwriting stars grasp at, never shying away from life’s unpredictable kicks to the gut, but Rapp’s direction is missing a human element that’s desperately needed for tonal reassurance.
A descriptor I’ve been holding back thus far is “superficial,” because I don’t think Loitering With Intent was made with bad intentions, but there’s nothing connective through Rapp’s delivery. We meet two down-on-their-luck best friends, fighting against theater politics and threatened egos, but their journey lacks any illumination. Loitering With Intent is a rudimentary runaround about acceptance, admittance, and being legendary, but it feels more like an awkward class-clown striving for attention instead of the whimsical poet who sweeps you off your feet.
While these characters might be loitering with intent, they're doing so without conviction, consequence or exuberance.