GIMME FIVE: Movies Where Not Much Happens


Not every film is an action blockbuster, has overly complicated romantic relationships, or has huge laugh-out-loud moments throughout; but that does not make the film that lacks these things any less of a cinematic experience. Films where not much happens often get a bad reputation. They are “slow” or “boring” to a lot of people, but sometimes you have to dig deeper than what is on the surface. There are many films that make grand commentaries about life and that don’t need any gimmicks to do so. A certain sector of independent films has been given the label “mumblecore”. These are films that usually involve little-known actors, are very low budget, and focus on naturalistic dialogue and events. This list contains a couple of films that could be considered part of this category; but it is also a list that stretches beyond and offers some very well known filmmakers and actors trying their hand at something a bit more simplistic. Films can be an escape from life, but they can also be a reflection of life and a commentary on our day to day. These 5 films all exemplify how a film where not much happens can actually be a whole lot more meaningful than a film where everything seems to be happening.

5) Wendy and Lucy (2008)

wendy and lucy

Director Kelly Reichardt is famous for her minimalist style and she excels at the utmost here with Wendy and Lucy. Wendy (Michelle Williams) and her dog Lucy are on their way to work in Alaska when her car breaks down and leaves her stranded with an economic situation that becomes more and more dire throughout the film. With a melancholic tone throughout and a stunning, subtle, performance from Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy conveys many emotions that get under your skin in a quiet kind of way. Watching this homeless woman struggle as she runs into people who keep making her situation worse reminds us of the simple, yet profound elements of life that constantly hinder us from moving forward. The film is quiet and real; it speaks volumes about lower-class society and is subtlety disturbing.

4) Greenberg (2010)


About a man whose goal is literally to do nothing, Greenberg follows Roger (Ben Stiller), who is bitter and seemingly “over” life. He has no prospects or goals, and to people on the outside, it seems as though he makes no effort. However he likes it this way; it is how he wants to live. He is somewhat awakened by Florence (Greta Gerwig), his brother’s assistant, as he is currently house-sitting his brother’s house. Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, in a change of pace for the comedian. Not that this film isn’t funny; it is often hilarious but not so much in a slapstick, laugh out loud manner. It is funny in the way that it comments on what it means to live life, to be successful, and to be driven to be the person you want to be. Gerwig shines in her first major breakthrough performance as Florence; together they make an interesting pair, but one that viewers root for. Noah Baumbach, who wrote and directed the film, is an expert at the “slice-of-life” kind of movie; and Greenberg is a prime example of this.

3) Somewhere (2010)


A world obsessed with the rich and famous needs a film like this to put things into perspective; and that is just what Somewhere does. Sofia Coppola’s films often make a commentary on what it is like to be famous; but she always seems to take a pessimistic view. Here, in this character study of actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) she paints the picture of a man who has it all; but who also has nothing. That is, except for his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), who has just been dropped on his doorstep for an unforeseeable amount of time. Johnny is a partier, a world famous actor, and the kind of guy who can get anything he wants. We see him constantly indulging in this life, but it never seems fulfilling. At his core, Johnny is lonely. It is only through the reconnection that he has with his daughter that he can start to appreciate life again. With brilliant performances from both Dorff and Fanning, a perfectly fitting soundtrack by the band Phoenix, and Coppola’s cinematic touch, this film where nothing much happens becomes a profound insight into the life of the privileged, and what can still be missing.

2) Tiny Furniture (2010)

tiny furniture

Attention to all fans of Girls; the hit HBO television show was not Lena Dunham’s first success. It was her student film Tiny Furniture that propelled Dunham onto the track to becoming a household name; another one of those films that gives a realistic glimpse into life–that is, if you are the daughter of an acclaimed artist living in New York. Aura (Dunham) has just finished college and now she has no clue about what to do with herself. Any 20-something could relate to the pains of uncertainty that Tiny Furniture offers; the confusion of facing the adult world and finding yourself within it. This is a film of the “mumblecore” movement, as it features all amateur actors and is extremely low budget. However, its success and the career that it kick-started for Dunham speaks for itself. This is a film that confronts issues boldly and will speak to the generation of people who don’t quite know how to figure things out just yet.

1) Slacker (1991)


Richard Linklater has basically invented this genre of films; except that his films are so meaningful and profound that there is no way you could accuse them of having “nothing happen”. Linklater is a director who (when he is not selling-out) has so much to say about the little things in life, and through almost all of his films, he has portrayed this sense of immediacy and importance in our everyday thoughts and actions. Slacker is his feature film debut, and though almost any of his films could have been featured on this list, Slacker captures the essence of what Linklater has been expertly crafting over his career; the purity of a single moment. Taking place over the course of one day in Austin, Texas, Slacker follows different characters throughout the film in their most mundane everyday moments. Most people could only wish that their conversations were as interesting and thought provoking at any given moment as they are constantly in this film. Philosophical and profound, Slacker was the beginning of a career for a man who pushes cinematic boundaries and who has proved that it is the little things in life that are the most resonant.

adrianaAdriana Floridia is a girl who has been passionate about film her whole life. Get to know her on Twitter @adrifloridia.


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