It Happened in L.A.

Studio: The Orchard
Directed by Michelle Morgan

Nov 10, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Michelle Morgan, the writer, director and star of the new indie dramedy It Happened in L.A., wears the influences of many other auteurs on her sleeve. Her feature debut bites Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach’s obsessions with bourgeois quirks, Lena Dunham’s ear for millennial angst and Wes Anderson's fussy square framing. Unfortunately, Morgan has none of the technical chops or emotional warmth of her predecessors, resulting in a film that fulfills most of the worst stereotypes about 21st century indie filmmaking.

Morgan casts herself as Annette, an aspiring writer who doesn’t write anymore. She convinces herself that her long term relationship with Elliott, an affable, nervous know-it-all played by Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone, is smothering her creative spark and driving her into a rut. As she attempts to reinvigorate herself, her best friend Baker faces her own struggles with several suitors, each more (heh) ill-suited than the last. Any fan of Girls or Frances Ha or Inappropriate Behavior or any of the other excellent films and TV shows about twenty-something women muddling their way through an urban existence in the 2010’s will have a charitable predisposition toward It Happened in L.A., but it’s a charity the movie squanders at almost every turn. Saddled with a self-conscious and over-written script, the film exists in some alternate world where every casual conversation between friends devolves into “You know what your problem is?” and where every scene ends with a sharp cut, punch-lining jokes that rarely land. Morgan’s directing skills mirror her writing, overly composed and fussy, positioning characters at the bottom of or partially out of frame to no discernible end. The performances by Morgan and Dree Hemingway - great-granddaughter of Ernest - as Baker feel too over-rehearsed and self-conscious for a film that supposed to be grounded and realistic.

One thing Morgan is fairly adept at is quick throwaway jokes, particularly ones dunking on L.A. itself. There’s a fun running joke about Annette’s hatred of game nights, as well as a concerned friend wanting to loan Elliott a scarf for his walk home since it’s sixty degrees outside. Sadly, a few quality gags can’t save the film from its flat direction, dull characters and eye-rolling morals about life and love.

Author rating: 2/10

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