In Our Nature

In Our Nature

Directed by Brian Savelson. Starring Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery, Gabrielle Union. (2012, NR, 102 min.)

REVIEWED By Leah Churner, Fri., Dec. 14, 2012

Romantic vacations are riskier than most of us care to admit. Bad weather, unreciprocated smiles, and GPS malfunctions can sour the mood in an instant, and when the fog of passive-aggressiveness sets in, it’s hard to see past your own nose. Writer/director Brian Savelson’s feature debut, In Our Nature, is a drama about that fog. Two New York City couples accidentally show up to an upstate country house on the same weekend: a persnickety lawyer, Gil (Mad Men’s silver fox, Slattery); his younger girlfriend, Vicky (Union, Bring It On); Gil’s son Seth (Gilford of Friday Night Lights), a brooding musician embarrassed by his family’s wealth; and Andie (Malone), Seth’s Helpy Helperton muse.

Both couples are uncertain about their futures. Making matters worse, Gil and Seth have an icy relationship. Vicky, a psychologist, wisely hangs back, but Andie is determined to fix things and comes up with a series of whimsical gambits to force father-son bonding. Whether it’s a problem of writing or casting, Andie’s zen-pixie antics fail to ingratiate. A righteous vegan, she rhapsodizes about quinoa, fills Gil’s coffeepot with yerba maté, and guilt-trips the group into dragging some old kayaks out to the pond. There, she splashes Vicky, who’s trying not to get her hair wet. Ultimately, everybody gets stuck in martyr mode.

A study in fine gradations of resentment in the great outdoors, In Our Nature is a little too subtle for this genre. Country-house-fiasco films are only satisfying when the shit truly hits the fan. We want to be reminded of how relaxing it is to not be on vacation; somebody needs to either have a nervous breakdown (What About Bob?) or get shot (The Rules of the Game, Chinese Roulette). Savelson’s conflicts scarcely alter the status quo in these characters’ lives. It’s like an average weekend: nice enough, but tepid.

Director Brian Savelson and Producer Anish Savjani will be at the 7:30pm screenings at the Arbor Cinema on Friday and Saturday to participate in a Q&A.

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