Cinema Review: Asthma | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 27th, 2020  

Asthma

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Jake Hoffman

Oct 23, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Asthma begins with a suicide attempt, and it happens to be the most interesting scene in the film. It raises interest in who this sullen, long haired, twentysomething might be. Gus leaves work – or is told to leave – throws his phone in the river, goes back to his apartment where he has a short, but meaningful conversation with a Jim Morrison poster. The world is phony, he was born in the wrong time, etc. He splashes white paint over everything and hangs himself in the middle of the room.

It doesn’t take. A beam breaks – cursed poor workmanship – and he falls to the floor, covered in paint. This is as interesting as Gus gets. Everything that follows undoes the intrigue. Every scene paints him as this self-absorbed addict but gives no depth to it. He is an empty vessel of a character. This could have been an interesting area to explore. What is it like for someone to feel so entirely out of place in the world he or she lives in? There are lazy comparisons to The Catcher in the Rye said aloud in the film, but Gus does not evoke Holden Caulfield. He doesn’t evoke anything. Gus treats everyone in his life like garbage. Whether he is aware of it or not, no one else matters. This does not make him a worthless character. Dirtbag protagonists are gold mines in popular culture. The biggest crime is how dull he is. He’s an addict? So what? He hates his place in the world? Why should anyone care? Slice of life films still need some kind of hook. Asthma never finds one.

Like its protagonist, the film is doomed by how small of an imprint every aspect leaves. It is so inconsequential, offers so little to any kind of cultural discourse, and is only slightly entertaining – which can mostly be attributed to actress Krysten Ritter as the romantic interest and Nick Nolte as a werewolf drug hallucination/spirit animal. The story never finds its legs. It meanders and stalls as Gus and Ruby (Ritter) go to a musician’s house party for an extended period of time. It tries to generate awkward humor situations, but it mostly falls flat. Asthma isn’t terrible. It’s not unwatchable. But it never rises above mediocrity and it reaches pretty hard to even reach that from time to time.

www.ifcfilms.com/films/asthma/

Author rating: 3/10

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