In John Chuldenko’s Nesting, Todd Grinnell, an actor of mostly TV sitcoms, plays thirtysomething adolescent Neil with a stoned-like smile a Paul Rudd character would use to buffer his way through life’s problems. But this choice probably has less to do with Grinnell that it does with the film’s larger inspiration: the recent I Love You, Man. Both are dramedies set in Los Angeles that feature barely grown-up male characters who more or less step back from their steady, more mature girlfriends to try and overcome dormant shortcomings in their lives. But where John Hamburg’s film about the “girlfriend guy” who goes on man dates was a smooth and beautiful, albeit racially dishonest, depiction of modern Los Angeles, this film about a guy who always wears an ironic T-shirt and wants to have an affair with the woman his partner was five years ago over-complicates its Los Angeles settings with characters always ready to proudly (mis)identify traits of Silverlake (a trendy neighborhood described by a mall clerk as filled with “hipster noodle bars” and “prii”) in moments that quickly become tiresome.
The way Nesting goes out of its way to tell us where it’s set is symptomatic of the film in general. Its title, for instance, is little more than a cute, needlessly made-up term for the premise—a couple rethinking the terms of their relationship—of numerous films. And the script has the couple speak as if they were impersonating themselves, describing their lives—something about spending weekends at IKEA eating Swedish meatballs and making furniture from Euroglyphics—in generalizations that are so broad that the characters shrink in relation to them, an affect that flattens much of the film’s humor and confines the characters in neat categories.
To be sure, most comedies employ stereotypes to get a laugh, but Nesting is too precious and contrived by half to be that funny; it wants to reach into the grab bag of Silverlake hipster culture for easy jokes, but it ultimately comes off too enamored with a neighborhood it only seems to know from a distance. At one point, the film even casually substitutes its favorite neighborhood for a recently opened coffee shop in Echo Park while at the same time having its characters proclaim, after hearing from a waitress that the kitchen now serves the White Stripes sandwich in place of their favorite Culture Club one, “This is our place, we’ve got history here, you can’t fake that.” Nesting just did.