Trust me, as a barely employable 31-year-old with vague aspirations of…something, I sympathize with the young filmmakers who’re frequently gathered under the trendy yet normally apropos “mumblecore” blanket. These directors want to capture the choked everyday terror of those with little clue as to what they’re doing with their lives; they want to examine, one presumes, their own inner doubt. Unfortunately, many of these directors mistake banality for reality. These films, with few exceptions (such as the modest, terrific films of Andrew Buljalski), aren’t examinations of youthful indecision, but exhibits of it. Kentucker Audley’s Open Five suffers from the same self-consciousness: It’s more of a question than a movie, that question being “Should we, like, make a movie?”
Open Five is another character study concerned with stunted would-be artists facing romantic uncertainties that force them to contend with the idea of mainstream adulthood. Predictably, the method of conveying said uncertainties is to withhold anything that could be thought to be conventionally interesting in a motion picture. The cast (including Audley) compensates for their inexperience by not acting at all, and, after a while, you yearn for bad acting, as that would at least be something. The characters—Memphis and New York-based musicians and filmmakers—are given few other details, and the dialogue is comprised almost entirely of “likes” and “literally"s and sentences that end a third of the way through. When the conversations occasionally threaten to develop into, God forbid, a point of view, the filmmaker abruptly cuts away to another scene in order to wind the film back to another stunted pause of pregnant emptiness. Open Five is so meandering and dull that you find yourself shocked and grateful for a prolonged glimpse of a sunrise, anything to stimulate the senses.
There’s a larger issue nagging many of these no-budget films about struggling young adults: They assume that all aspiring, rootless artistes are incapable of even rudimentary thought when the opposite is normally the case. Young people with frustratingly vague ambitions often justify themselves with endless conversation, as that’s their art, their means of expression until they hopefully find a venue that can complete them in their own eyes. Over-educated, under-worked young adults, particularly of the Internet age, are capable of running the conversational gamut from the political to the sexual to the musical to the minute. Rohmer understood that, underneath the patter, lurked people terrified of being cyphers. Richard Linklater even understood that. But films like Open Five allow that fear of nothingness to become just that: nothing.