There is a lot of pointlessness in life, but it’s still kinda swell just to be alive. That’s the message in Anthony Jaswinski’s slacker comedy “Killing Time,” a movie that, while full of pointlessness, is still kinda swell just to watch.
The plot is so minuscule it nearly doesn’t exist. Trevor Phelps (Jack Thyme), a 26-year-old pothead with no direction and no place to stay, heads for a job interview on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He travels on foot and on the way encounters an ex-girlfriend, some former classmates (he went to an architectural school) and more than one police officer. That’s it.
The point, obviously, is in the dialogue, of which there is no shortage. Nearly everyone Trevor runs into has something to say, some philosophy to spout, some topic to rant on. A guy in a bar speaks casually of “the clandestine intricacies of male bonding,” and a museum security guard imparts all sorts of wisdom to our hero — who may not be Odysseus, but whose personal odyssey is no less important to him.
Dialogue that expresses ideas rather than furthering the plot, actors chosen from among the director’s friends regardless of their ability, the shiftless 20-something characters bored with life — it all reminds me of “Clerks,” though not nearly as funny or subversive. (The closest “Killing Time” can get to counterculture is to have someone boldly declare that he thinks the Beatles sucked.) Both films will either charm you or bore you, depending upon your connection to the characters. These people exist in a world that is very real, but that may be far distant from those who, for example, are in their 30s and/or have jobs.
First time writer/director Jaswinski has some distance to travel before he’s breaking real ground in either capacity, but he demonstrates an instinct for how to make all the elements of filmmaking come together. There’s a fantastic scene in which Trevor calls his well-to-do mother in White Plains in which we, like Mom, can only hear his voice over the phone, without seeing him. The distance between the two figures, both geographic and emotional, is clear in the dialogue, in the acting and in the fact that the camera never shows us Trevor’s face throughout the scene.
Jack Thyme’s performance as Trevor is key to the film’s success. I think everyone has a brother who looks like Thyme; he is Every Brother. His acting is a bit stilted — too much emphasis on the pot-smoking aspect of the character, perhaps — but generally warm and personal. Though he rarely smiles, his voice always makes it sound like he is. He exemplifies a movie that is funny, laid-back and sweet.
A- (; )