Loitering with Intent has all the right ingredients for a compelling short film. Unfortunately, it has been unnecessarily bloated into an 80-minute feature.
Raphael (Ivan Martin) and Dominic (Michael Godere) are two struggling actor-writers who are commissioned to write the screenplay for a low-budget Chandleresque noir film. The screenplay subplot is quickly dropped once the two are settled in their writing retreat: the cottage they occupy suddenly becomes a festering nightmare of family drama when Dominic’s sister Gigi (Marisa Tomei) arrives, bringing her relationship issues with Wayne (Sam Rockwell) into the household.
Loitering with Intent is brimming with cynicism about the entertainment industry. Here, everyone is performing and everything is a performance. There are even brilliant occasions where it’s unclear whether the characters are genuinely speaking as themselves or simply reciting dialogue from their screenplay, a quality underscored by multiple verbal references to filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (who was often fond of reflecting on the performativity of his actors).
In terms of performances, Martin and Godere are ideally suited for their familiar roles. Martin plays the hedonistic, slobbish best friend, with Godere taking on the neurotic self-loathing persona typical of Woody Allen’s characters (although nowhere near as intense). While Tomei and Rockwell deliver solid supporting performances (as expected), the biggest surprise here is Brian Geraghty, whose unconventional facial features somehow contribute to a believable performance as a Californian surfing instructor with an upcoming reality TV show.
However, the film suffers from a lack focus. The film begins as a dramedy about the failure to succeed in an industry that favours the attractive and ignorant over the intellectual and talented. The film loses much of its lustre after dropping the infinitely more interesting screenplay subplot in favour of a family drama. Despite Tomei and Rockwell’s fine acting here, neither are able to save their subplot that too often feels excessive. Being a conventional subplot about relationship issues, it lacks the insightful commentary to keep the film afloat.
Despite convincing performances, Loitering with Intent fails as a feature. It offers some brilliant ideas but can’t support them with its inflated and awkward construction.