Loitering with Intent has a likeably scrappy, on-the-fly quality. It’s about two struggling actors who conspire to knock out a movie script over a 10-day period so as to cash-in on a producer’s unexpectedly flexible funding strategy, and you’re allowed to sense that this film was probably the result of a similar endeavor. That suspicion is nurtured by the loose, circularly loopy dialogue, which is inventive and spontaneous-feeling, and by the fact that the stars, Michael Godere and Ivan Martin, wrote the film. Loitering with Intent appears to be personal and self-conscious in a fashion that’s refreshingly spry and human. It’s a comedy concerned with myopia that doesn’t succumb to the self-obsessed pitfalls of that subject.
Godere and Martin play Dominic and Raphael, respectively, two friends who’ve obviously known each other for a while and who’ve grown accustomed to one another’s delusions and foibles. Dominic’s an idealist who says the right things about Ingmar Bergman and the Film Forum, but who’s stuck in a rut of a bartending job that’s punctuated with increasingly hopeless auditions. Raphael’s in a similar situation, but he’s coping by making a conspicuous show of his having checked out. He’s the charismatic party guy who never means anything. We’ve seen plenty of films with this general setup, and that familiarity is a potential liability with which Godere, Martin, and director Adam Rapp are well aware. Loitering with Intent expands in vision just as you’ve steeled yourself for yet another variation of Diner or Swingers. Dominic and Raphael crash somewhere in the country at Dominic’s sister Gigi’s (Marisa Tomei) place in order to nab some of that all-mythical “peace and quiet” that they feel they need to write their script, though there are surprises that serve to shake them out of their hermetic stasis.
The filmmakers display an understanding of panicky disappointment that’s rare for American movies, discerning that Dominic and Raphael’s failures are beginning to be predetermined by their obsession with themselves as failures. Dominic can barely allow himself to participate in the party that begins to blossom around him. Gigi’s people keep stopping in, including her gorgeous friend, Ava (Isabelle McNally), and her troubled veteran boyfriend, Wayne (Sam Rockwell), and his brother, Devon (Brian Geraghty). Raphael, in love with Gigi, immediately appoints himself the master of the weekend ceremonies, but Dominic must grapple with what he’s clearly taken to be a last shot at acting, walling himself up from everything else. The inevitable dissolution of the script deal is a relief—a reprieve from self-hatred.
The plot sets the tone, which could be described as celebratory melancholia, but the film’s meanings arise from the nearly self-contained vignettes, which are performed by the cast with an evocative sense of a shared past that Rapp wisely refuses to over-explicate. Tomei, who becomes a greater actor every year, invests Gigi with these frantic little gestures that allude to in-jokes and to her uncertainty with all these troubled loved ones who’ve found themselves on her beautiful property. Tomei can wring more subtext out of twirling her finger around the side of her head (doing the “he’s nuts” gesture) than many actors might out of a thematically full-tilt monologue. Rockwell is similarly, casually wonderful. He plays Wayne with a heaviness that’s unusual and unexpected for him; wearing the character’s anger in his eyes, lending the film an element of danger that keeps it from getting too cute.
The film’s aesthetic suits its appealing one-thing-after-another-ness. Rapp and cinematographer Radium Cheung keep many of the shots open and catch-as-catch-can, though the colors, particularly the greens of the trees and grass, come through with a hyper-vividness that’s surprising for a comedy, testifying quietly to the various passions that come to engulf the characters before they’re to return to their mutual routines. Loitering with Intent is a dramatization of one of those weekends that come to stand for a fleeting paradise of camaraderie and heartbreak, which at least offers proof of capacity for feeling. The kind of weekend where you feel like you actually did something.