There’s something uniquely irritating about the kind of too-serious-for-its-own-good alternative-lifestyle drama subheading that Chris Mason Johnson’s The New Twenty neatly falls under. It’s the kind of movie where people answer questions like “Are you okay?” with doggerel like “Yeah, just a touch of existential malaise courtesy of late capitalism. Y’know, the usual.” Just to put that line into perspective, this is Felix (Thomas Sadoski), the precocious, too-smart-for-his-own-good one, talking. With lines like that, it’s no wonder that New Twenty is the kind of film that Ferzan Ozpetek likes to make but hasn’t made well in a long time for a reason: There’s no way you can watch pretty, white (and two Asian) burnt-out things grapple with their prosaic, though no-less real problems humorlessly in spite of the community that is constantly buoying them up in their constant and frequent times of need.
The problem with New Twenty is it’s what a mumblecore film would be like if the problems of confused hipsters revolved around a sturdy social network instead of cliques, couples, or ménage a trois. It would have been sufficient if the film was just about Andew (Ryan Locke), Julie (Nicole Bilderback), and Louie (Terry Serpico), the engaged power couple and the creepy but oddly alluring third wheel that complicates everything. Instead, we get to see that these people have—gasp—friends, lots and lots of friends, with all their own mopey and boring problems. Felix does drugs and is shy, Tony (Andrew Wei Lin) is gay, lonely, and dating an HIV-positive guy, and Ben (Colin Fickes) is gay, chunky, and lonely. If somebody were to snap their fingers and say “mmmm dra-ma” right now, heterosexuality and whiteness be damned, I would be obliged to say “Amen.”
All of this would be marginally interesting if any of the group’s precious little lives seemed deeper or more substantial than that of a dreary Alternative Sex and the City soap opera. Drinkin’ beer on the roof, gettin’ high, bein’ propositioned by older men in bars who uses pick-up lines like “Now, would you like a blow job from an old cowboy?”; it’s not easy living lives based on the clichés of Dawson’s Creek and that much harder to care. Is being young—yes, despite your neuroses, all you thirtysomethings, you are still young—and lonely but surrounded by a sizeable community of friends really that lonely? Apparently, but frankly I don’t see it.