The plight of the struggling artist in New York is a frequently traveled trope in the realm of cinema. At this point, the narrative practically writes itself. Individuals believe they have the talent to make it big, but must slum it in demeaning jobs – seriously, there are far worst jobs than being a waiter or a bartender – until an opportunity arises. Therein lies the uphill battle that Adam Rapp’s Loitering with Intent, the latest addition to the “woe is me, being an artist is tough” canon of films, faces from its opening montage. How does the film separate itself from the pack when everyone is running the same textbook race?
Despite characters spouting quasi-deep introspective indie jargon, take “give me something real…truthful” for example, the film frequently betrays itself in regards to adhering to theses ideals. For all its proclamations about striving for depth, Rapp rarely swims out of the shallow end of the pool. Similar to the fictional screenplay that Dominic (Michael Godere) and Raphael (Ivan Martin) attempt to write, Godere and Martin wrote the script for Loitering with Intent, the film often feels like a smattering of loose ideas being tested as the story progresses.
Upon hearing through a mutual acquaintance (Natasha Lyonne) that a producer with some extra cash to throw around is looking for a new project to invest in, Dominic and Raphael set out to write a script in ten days which will highlight their acting abilities. Leaving the city behind, the men decide to set up shop at the country home of Dominic’s sister Gigi (Marisa Tomei). Of course their quiet time away is anything but as distractions surface in the form of Gigi’s attractive neighbour Ava (Isabelle McNally) and the unexpected arrival of a drunken and emotionally distraught Gigi. While Raphael is happy to reconnect with Gigi, his former flame, things ultimately get complicated when Gigi’s ex-military boyfriend Wayne (Sam Rockwell) arrives at the home, with younger brother Devon (Brian Geraghty) in tow, to win Gigi back.
While there is something inherently charming about observing talented actors, who are clearly good friends off-screen, let loose and chew the scenery, the lack of substance is simply too hard to ignore. One cannot help but think of how enriching this film could have been with more well-rounded characters. Tomei and Rockwell, who are both scene-stealers, do their best with what little they are given, but even they cannot mask the shortcomings in the script.
There is a scene towards the end of the film where Rockwell’s Wayne asks Dominic what will happen after he makes it in industry? It is a sobering, though sadly too brief, moment that approaches true depth. However, Loitering with Intent does not provide a sufficient answer to the question. The film is so concerned with making it to the big stage, that it rarely gives thought to why it even deserves to be there in the first place.