Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New Russian Filmmakers, Post-Sundance: Inadequate People

Perhaps galloping neuroses can be a sign of progress. They are an impossible luxury during times of crisis and privation. Indeed, one self-promoting analyst does a booming business catering to the neighbors and colleagues of a depressed Muscovite transplant in writer-director-composer-editor Roman Karimov’s Inadequate People (trailer here), which screens tomorrow in New York as part of CEC ArtsLink’s special post-Sundance celebration of New Russian Filmmakers.

Vitaliy is still wracked with guilt over a tragedy from his recent past, but he is trying to pull his life back together with the help of a new job in a different city, a confident shrink, and his self-help book. The depressed English translator wants to be boring, but his sexually aggressive boss Marina could be a problem. So could Christina, the sarcastic seventeen year-old Lolita living next door. At least, she has some substance, if not ambition. For a while, everything is rather neighborly, with Christina and her overworked mother joining Vitaliy on his analyst’s patient roster. Yet, as feelings develop between Christina and her thirty-nothing English tutor, it starts to raise a few eyebrows, particularly with her frazzled mother.

Though Inadequate treads on some delicate terrain, Karimov finds quite a few neurotic laughs in the process. (At seventeen, Christina is technically legal in Russia, and New York, though that hardly dispels the potential icky factor.) Still, Karimov navigates the perilous straits quite deftly, teasing their confused feelings out of some sharp, frequently biting dialogue.

Indeed, Inadequate works surprisingly well thanks to the convincing chemistry that develops between Ilya Lyubimov and Ingrid Olerinskaya as the mismatched pair. As Vitaliy, the former also shows an understated flair for the Sex in the City meets The Office style of humor involving his scary boss and petty coworkers. While the slightly dubious shrink is a rom-com staple, Yevgeni Tsyganov still has some clever moments as Vitaliy’s want-to-be self-help guru. The attractiveness of Inadequate’s cast, particularly Olerinskaya and Yuliya Takshina as Marina, hardly hurts its credibility either.

Smartly written, Karimov’s script is honest and self-aware enough to cut through a lot of bunk. It is a very good relationship film that easily travels between cultures. A bit of a change of pace from the Russian films often imported onto American screens (Chekhovian period pieces, grungy post-Soviet crime dramas, and the like) Inadequate is definitely recommended when it screens (for a mere $5 suggested donation) at the Tribeca Cinemas tomorrow night (2/2).