On the surface, Douchebag, this year’s low-budget Sundance gem, may seem like a parody of itself. It looks like some guys got access to camera equipment and made a small road-trip movie based around an unimportant journey. But Douchebag also has great performances that provide nuanced emotional scenes and near-absurd laugh-out-loud comedic moments, all held together by a less-is-more directing style that allows the film to showcase a great group of characters.
The film sounds like a caricature of what you would find at a film festival; a road trip movie about a vegetarian hipster and his estranged brother searching for something they never quite get to, stopping along the way to take in scenic shots of the California coast set to minimalist indie-music. But while some directors might beat you over the head with a maelstrom of angst and pretentiousness, Drake Doremus eases you into the film, and allows the absurdity of it all to slowly build, creating a film that is equal parts mockery and sincerity.
The film is very much tied to the mumblecore tradition: a micro-budget movie centered around essentially insignificant 20-something problems, but Doremus aims to create an easily accessible mumblecore movie and succeeds. The film, although focused nominally on an upcoming wedding, is very relatable, because it's really just about a guy trying to have some fun, and unintentionally bothering people along the way. Everyone has accidentally been a “douchebag” in their lives, but no one really sees how much they looked like a douchebag until they see Andrew Dickler’s Sam Nussbaum staring them in the face.
Although reliant on a more than competent supporting cast, the movie is really a one-man-show led by talented newcomer Andrew Dickler, who sneakily turns high-status diatribes into a showcase of comedic genius. His character, Sam Nussbaum, is a new incarnation of the guy you love to hate and it’s remarkable to see him break up a slow-paced scene with a quick barb the way he does.
Douchebag, which features characters on the eve of a marriage, doesn’t say much in the grander sense, but in doing so the film would lose what makes it unique. If early mumblecore films aimed to change the landscape of independent film, Douchebag just hangs out enjoying the view, and in the end becomes more a hallmark of the genre because of it.