A safely stylized orgy of generic juvenile malaise, You Wont Miss Me follows soft-middled and vaguely disturbed actress wannabe Shelly (Stella Schnabel) through a series of alienating metropolitan encounters with puerile acquaintances and casting directors to construct a portrait of maddeningly fatuous interpersonal resistance. The scenarios that make up the vignette-oriented narrative, most of which involve hesitant sexual encounters, platonic confrontations, or hideously awkward auditions, suggest a virtual playbook of anti-social behavior with interludes of pseudo-reflective voiceover narration; Shelly bristles against or shrugs her shoulders at casual sex, men she can easily have, men she can’t, frenemy-like female cohorts and somewhat sympathetic stage directors until her scattershot dissatisfaction appears, if nothing else, profoundly comprehensive in its range.
She can’t be blamed, of course, for her environmental disillusionment. Her unnamed emotional disorder, teased out in sessions with an unseen counselor (voiced by Noah Kimmerling) never becomes anything more than the run-of-the-mill bitchery of protracted adolescence, but no one could suffer her hirsute, mumble-mouthed, art-house peers for long without the assistance of psychoactive medication. What’s unsatisfactorily acknowledged, however, is how much Shelly unknowingly contributes to the vapidity she insists upon rejecting from her world; in the film’s lengthy climactic scene, Shelly lashes out at her friend Carlen’s (Carlen Altman) sexual success with accusations of phoniness even after she herself had attempted to wring intimacy from a wet washcloth of a conversation about the Smiths and whitehead pimples with a detached hookup. And rather than contextualizing this abrasive cluelessness with moments of rubbed raw honesty, filmmaker Ry Russo-Young simply lets Shelly pointlessly collide with the deadened personalities that comprise her circle of friends until she arbitrarily throws up her hands and makes do with fleeting glimpses of contentedness.
Schnabel, who co-wrote the script with second-time director Russo-Young, has a natural, frazzled demeanor throughout that suits her character’s desultory recalcitrance, and effectively plays straight to the few sprinkles of aggressive humor. (One stage director gives her notes on a purple, autoerotic monologue with hilariously Jewish, nuts-and-bolts-obsessed hyperactivity.) But the presumed goal of capturing a woman-child lost both in the otherworldliness of New York and the labyrinth of her own muddled mind becomes confused in a swirl of stilted supporting performances—some by mumblecore names like Aaron Katz and Joe Swanberg—and aimless formal experimentation. (The “diversity” of media and aspect ratios here—among others, windowboxed 8mm is used for ramshackle memories and pixilated miniDV for tetchy conversation and nightscapes—never escapes the flat, tinkered-with texture of digital video, and isn’t varied with enough rhythm to meaningfully represent anything that’s occurring in the plot.) A reflexive reference to the joys of DIY filmmaking toward the movie’s close feels especially exasperating; Russo-Young and Schanbel’s view of cinema is about as subtle as their perspective of behavioral therapy (A choice Freudian retort: “You get more treatment or you wind up behind bars!”) An often masturbatory examination of hatefully insipid people, You Wont Miss Me is a veritable catalogue of the worst habits of today’s American independent scene.