Eric Leiser’s hackneyed documentary/stop-motion hybrid Glitch in the Grid presumes social importance by simply referencing the relationship between modern young artists and their inability to express themselves amid a failing U.S. economy. The 2008 Great Recession is reduced to an “Idiot’s Guide” of talking-head voiceover clips and statistical graphics, all presented to maximize the viewer’s pity for Eric, his brother Jeffrey, and their small-town friend/subject Jay Masonek, who fruitlessly roam Los Angeles looking for answers. Call it the blind leading the clueless.
What starts as a well-intentioned quest by the Leiser brothers to help Jay find an artistic voice outside the confines of his normal routine quickly becomes an utterly useless hipster goof-off session, an inadvertent and off-putting picture of modern-day slackerdom that says more about the filmmakers than the world at large. Despite their supposed economic plight, it’s completely impossible to feel any sympathy for the three men, who are so obviously in love with hearing themselves weep about the injustices of the social “grid” forcing their young voices into the fringes. To make matters worse, they often go on for minutes at a time about how “the right job will find me,” a dumb-ass assessment if there ever was one that just disproves whatever ideological critique the film suggests as gospel.
From the very first sequence, a kinetic flashdance of toy birds, human hands, and other assorted figurines flying through space via stop-motion photography, Glitch in the Grid is strangled to death by editorial manipulation. In fact, the film never stops moving, very rarely showing the world in real time. But this constant visual pivoting, a style Leiser references as fine-art photography, only distorts potentially dramatic and poetic moments. For Glitch in the Grid, social commentary boils down to aligning this discombobulated image scheme with simplistic notions about Jay’s bad decision-making, even though the two ideas are divided by his lack of motivation. The film wants to convey Jay as a symbol of a generation ignored by the establishment, yet in reality he’s just another dreamer without the ambition or confidence to take a real chance on himself.
Essentially, Glitch in the Grid is one 82-minute blame game posing as art cinema. Leiser takes childish pot shots at Hollywood, Southern California culture, and the Obama administration through exaggerated narrative tangents, really for no other reason than to vent his own pedantic failures and frustrations. The tangible link between the director and his friend’s personal situation with poverty and the rest of the country is completely blurred, even ambiguous at best, and the fact they try and mooch off such a real sense of panic and uncertainty is possibly the film’s greatest insult.
Plot or characterization doesn’t matter in the least for the filmmakers, scarily evident in Glitch in the Grid’s utter lack of structure or pacing. Jay’s job search consists of sitting at the computer, scanning Craigslist for acting opportunities, drinking beer, and skateboarding, all the while wondering why success continuously eludes him. The Leisers, also dealing with their own conflicts of self-awareness and artistic expression, seem to enable Jay’s worst impulses, providing little substantive structure for him to transcend a pattern of failure.
By the end, literally nothing in terms of thematic or social discourse has been discussed in a thoughtful manner, and the characters appear destined to go on indulging themselves and alienating the viewer forever. During the film’s climax, Jay finally confesses to Michael that he “definitely does a lot of thinking and soul searching” since relocating to Los Angeles, a fittingly moronic cherry on top for this mammoth vanity project. As the annoying accordion-themed score crescendos in Glitch in the Grid, I could only imagine the subject’s parental units shaking their heads in frustration at their delusional offspring who seem content to waste away in their own self-indulgence. Stew away boys.