Though his quirky-adorable indie-slacker demeanor makes one instinctively want to turn and run for the hills, Justin Rice’s wry, deadpan wit nonetheless carries Harmony and Me, a mumblecore-ish debut feature from writer-director Bob Byington that’s far less interested in oblique conversational navel-gazing than in dry humor. Commencing with a quote from Madonna’s “Borderline,” the wisp of a plot concerns the efforts of Harmony (Mutual Appreciation’s Rice) to cope with being dumped by Jessica (Kristen Tucker), who a friend recounts always considered him a loser—evidenced by her habit of saying things like “There goes one of life’s losers.” While attempting to win back the heart of his uninterested-in-reconciling ex, Harmony mopes about his dull desk job, spends time with his nicotine-loving mom—whose lungs, says a doctor, “should be declared a national disaster area”—and prick brothers, takes piano lessons, goes bowling with a pedophile co-worker, screws a lunatic neighbor, and hangs out with friends who are either unhappily married or 40-year-old do-nothings still living at home and driving their parents’ minivans.
To describe the action in conventional terms, however, is to imply that the film has a clear narrative or serious desire to plumb the depths of breakup grief and paralysis, rather than merely an interest in romantic-sad-sack riffing. The aimless Harmony may ostensibly be searching for his “rhythm,” but his story is merely a series of sketches whose tossed-off quality—with regard to both the functional-at-best DV cinematography and casual, scruffy dialogue—would be far more exasperating if the bits weren’t often so drolly funny. From Harmony’s mom advising him to forget Jessica and “find one that can move her arms and legs,” to his wise-ass brother facetiously greeting his recovering sibling, who has awakened from a chocolate allergy-instigated coma, with, “I went to your teachers and got all your homework,” Harmony and Me unexpectedly sneaks clever, cutting, and/or absurd one-liners into most of its seemingly ad-libbed scenarios, its consistent ability to amuse bolstering what in effect amounts to a cinematic doodle.